Month: June 2010

Are you, or is someone you know, an eenie-meenie-miney-mo lover?

June has been a bit of an off month for me in terms of keeping things regular around here. And I’m not talking about my digestive adventures.

I apologize for the blog slacking to the two or three people who might keep up with what’s going on around these parts. I’ve tried to make my posts about ten times more long-winded than usual to compensate. Rest assured, I’ve been insanely busy on the music front, which is the main reason for my lack of rambling lately. I touched on what I’m working on in the last few posts, but in more graphic detail it looks like this.

I am:

  • Finally putting a concerted effort into pulling together all the disparate threads of this album called THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, which I’ve been working on here and there over the past three years or so. “Ambitious” is a bit of an understatement when it comes to this thing. There are now well over two hundred songs that have been written with this album in mind, in addition to countless ideas that range from half-there songs to riffs or sketches not yet fully formed enough to know what they want to be. I decided it was time to buckle down and conquer the thing while it was still something I might be able to do without imploding. Otherwise it’s just going to keep swelling up to increasingly grotesque proportions until I give up on ever coming anywhere near finishing it. Somewhere between seventy and eighty songs have already been recorded in one form or another. Some are finished. Some just need to be mixed. some need a lot of work. My plan is to finish/mix the songs in need of finishing/mixing, record thirty or forty more of my favourites, and then shave things down to about the best hundred tracks and call it a day. This means there will be many songs meant for THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE still waiting for a home when I’m finished, but if I put them all in one place right now the results will be far too impenetrable and overwhelming. I figure somewhere down the road I’ll get around to a second volume. As it stands, even with just a hundred songs I estimate it’ll have to be a four-CD set. All that music isn’t going to fit on three discs like I originally thought, and it will end up coming out to about five hours of music. On one album. In one place. If this sounds insane, it’s because it is. But I’m determined to put it together once and for all, and I think if I can do it, and I can do it right, it’ll be something I can be pretty proud of, even if no one else ever has the patience or stamina to wade through it all.
  • Either working on another album of all-new material, with a much more long-winded working title, or not. I’m a little torn. HELLHOUND can go one of two ways. It can either turn into the most absurdly catchy, disturbingly normal-sounding set of songs I’ve put together in a very long time, with the other album going in the complete opposite direction, full of extended experimental pieces that are among the more out-there things I’ve done in recent memory…or I can throw away the idea of separating things and just let the catchiness and weirdness slam into each other head-on. If I take the first route, it means I get to release three new albums at the same time, which would be fun, and ridiculous, and make for a bit more fun with cover art and design, which is something I’m really starting to enjoy these days. Option number two would mean HELLHOUND, instead of being one of my more accessible albums, would become an oddball schizophrenic thing that would probably end up turning into a double CD, what with all the new songs I’m writing, recording now, and will be recording soon. At the moment there are about a dozen of these songs recorded, mixed, and CD-ready, and another twenty or thirty I want to record. The idea of one of my albums being relatively palatable and free of much overt weirdness is something I have mixed feelings about right now (I did it in the past…why do it again?), so I’m leaning in the direction of letting it all bleed together for something more sprawling and unpredictable. At the same time, it would almost be less predictable to put out a somewhat normal album full of catchy little songs, since that’s probably more or less the opposite of what is expected of me at this point. It could really go either way.
  • “Reissuing” CDs from the back catalogue a few at a time with proper cover art for the first time ever. I’ve got about ten of them printed and packaged so far, with about a dozen more on the way. There’s more than that in the vaults (and I’ve got art sorted out for just about everything now), but some of the albums are not exactly priorities for me (and not terribly good, either). Right now I’m concentrating on getting the ones I like best looking spiffy. As I said before, these are not things I’m going to put an effort into widely circulating. They’re available if you want them, but the main reason I’m doing this is for myself. It’s fun to have Papa Ghostface and Guys with Dicks albums looking like proper CDs for the first time ever.
  • Writing new songs and coming up with new ideas pretty much on a daily basis.

This is all going on at the same time, with everything running into everything else. The long and short of it is that I aim to have at least two — maybe three — ridiculously sprawling new albums release-ready (which may well amount to about seven hours of music in total), and twenty or so older albums available with new/proper packaging, all by the end of August. I’m not sure if you’d call this sort of thing multi-tasking, or insanity, or something else, but it’ll be interesting finding out if I can pull it off. I think there’s a good chance I can do it. It’ll be a nice birthday present to myself to feel like I’ve finally put a medium-sized dent in all the music I need to record.

See, when I don’t put out a new album for four or five months — and by my standards, that’s like not putting anything new out there for a year — it’s not because I’m taking time off. It’s because I’m shopping for a tweed jacket in Panama.

So there’s that. This is what I was talking about when I said, “Expect a lot of new music relatively soon-ish, hopefully before the end of the summer.”

Should we do a random angry rant/tirade now? It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I think we should go for it. Alright then.

You know, I thought I’d heard some pretty horrible music, with some pretty soul-destroying lyrics. I thought I’d heard about the worst the world had to offer. But today popular music has plummeted to a new low. I suppose it technically sunk to that level when this song was written and recorded, but today was the first time I ever heard it, and I’ve never wanted quite so much to erase something from my brain.

I’m talking about a Justin Bieber/Sean Kingston duet called “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo Lova”. Roll that around on your tongue for a moment or two.

A lot of love-related songs have been written over the years, some good, some bad, but this shit has managed to shave IQ points off of the entire songwriting language in one fell swoop. On the surface it’s about a girl who’s a player, though you’d have a hard time sussing it out given how awe-inspiring the lyrics are in their stupidity. Here they are.

Eenie meenie miney mo.
Catch a bad chick by her toe.
If she holla (if, if, if she holla) let her go.

Right. So, we start off with an age-old schoolyard rhyme, and somehow it’s applied to a female specimen we are meant to associate negative connotations with. If she shouts, let her go. Or, “No means no.” Or something.

She’s indecisive.
She can’t decide.

Holy fucking shit! We didn’t get the point when you told us she was indecisive. Good thing you explained that for us.

She keeps on lookin’
from left to right.

I’m glad to hear her eyes are capable of moving horizontally without trouble.

Girl, c’mon, get closer.
Look in my eyes.
Searchin’ is so wrong.
I’m Mr. Right.

So…you like her, and you’re amazing, and she should take your word for it. Playing the field is a bad thing. Searching is wrong? Okay. I’ll remember that next time I see your face on a milk carton.

You seem like the type
to love ’em and leave ’em
and disappear right after this song.

You already know she’s flighty, and you know very well what you’re getting into. You even acknowledge that she’ll probably be gone by the time the song is over. Why are you wasting your time? Are you dense? Are you that hard up for an audience?

So give me the night
to show you, hold you.
Don’t leave me out here dancin’ alone.

If you were dancing alone, I don’t think she’d want to mack on you in the first place. Dancing with yourself is generally not considered cool. It tends to mean no one wants to dance with you. Unless you’re Billy Idol. Then dancing with yourself carries a different meaning, especially in the case of the extended mix.

You can’t make up your mind, mind, mind, mind, mind.

Apparently neither can you, because you tell us something and feel the need to repeat it several times, either to fill empty space or to make sure us simpletons catch your meaning, which is about as deep as a puddle of piss after not consuming any liquids for a week. Carry on, though.

Please don’t waste my time, time, time, time, time.
I’m not tryin’ to rewind, wind, wind, wind, wind.

Sounds more like you’re stuck on repeat than anything.

I wish our hearts could come together as one.

Hearts have orgasms? Even if they do, I hope you realize life isn’t quite the same as what you see in the movies. Orgasms are so rarely perfectly synchronized.

‘Cause shawty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shawty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shawty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shawty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.

Congratulations! You’ve just written the most pathetically stupid chorus to ever grace a piece of music. Also, Justin — or whoever is responsible for crafting your image — in case you didn’t know, you’re not black. Unless the girl you’re singing about is three feet tall, you should probably figure out some other pet name for her. “Shawty” doesn’t exactly sound hip coming out of your mouth. That goes for you too, Stereos.

Here’s a suggestion, wannabe white R&B pretenders: stop appropriating lingo created by African American artists, stop dressing like rappers and trying to act like you’re “street” when you probably don’t even have any pubic hair yet and have led a charmed life very far from the street, and maybe people who are older than twelve will start to take you a little more seriously. Here’s another piece of advice: when an article is followed by a noun that begins in a vowel or a silent h, said article usually changes to reflect this and become more phonetically pleasing. In this case, “a” should be “an”. This is called simple, common sense grammar. They teach it in grade school.

Let me show you what you’re missin’.
With me you’re winning, girl.
You don’t have to roll the dice.

So she’s a gambler too? Dude, what are you doing?! You’re not going to convince this girl you’re more exciting than a game of roulette. You can’t compete with the thrill of potentially destroying her life, or winning an insane amount of money, or both, in a matter of moments. At best, maybe you’re a momentary distraction. Give it up.

Tell me what you’re really here for.
Them other guys?
I can see right through ya.

Your powers of perception truly boggle the mind.

You seem like the type
to love em and leave ’em
and disappear right after this song.
So give me the night
to show you, hold you.
Don’t leave me out here dancin’ alone.

That’s right. Gotta repeat the pre-chorus hook. Gotta be a good little generic do-nothing, say-nothing pop song.

Can’t make up your mind.
Please don’t waste my time.

Don’t waste YOUR time? If she hasn’t told you to get lost by now, she’s just being nice. You’re wasting her time with your bad grade school poetry. Actually, that’s an insult to grade school poetry, which kind of looks like Cormac McCarthy next to this stuff.

Not tryin’ to rewind.
I wish our hearts could come together as one.

Again with the chestgasms. Give it up. There isn’t a condom big enough to hold your heart.

Cause shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.

Eenie meenie miney moe.
Catch a bad chick by her toe.
If she holla (if, if, if she holla) let her go.
Eenie meenie miney moe.
Catch a bad chick by her toe.
If she holla (if, if, if she holla) let her go.

Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.
Shorty is a eenie meenie miney mo lova.

Can’t make up your mind.
Please don’t waste my time.
Not tryin to rewind.
I wish our hearts could come together as one.

So…what have we learned here? You thought this girl was a player, but you tried to convince her you were more exciting than those other guys. You wanted to have an orgasm in your heart with her. But instead of developing any kind of meaningful connection or saying anything of substance, you settled for calling her an eenie-meenie-miney-mo lover about two hundred times and grabbing her by the toe.

Congratulations. You, my friend, are a douchebag. You could have just rubbed one out and saved us the trouble of being subjected to this awesomely pathetic drivel you call a song.

I have nothing against Justin personally. He serves his purpose, even if it’s one that makes me throw up in my mouth a little, and preteen girls do need their manufactured soulless pop tarts. But if anyone got paid any amount of money to have a hand in writing that atrocity of a song (and believe me, someone did), it was a sad day in the history of songwriting when it happened. This right here is why I don’t listen to the radio or watch much TV. This is the shit that, if you hear enough of it, makes you wonder why you bother making music at all when what really sells and touches people is something a five-year-old could write. Fortunately I stay far enough away from popular music most of the time that my contempt stays at a low throb and doesn’t often boil over like it used to.

But seriously. Shawty is an eenie-meenie-miney-mo lova? Are you fucking kidding me? Buy some brain cells, people. This is not music. It’s a really, really poorly put together product. I hesitate to even call it a product. It’s more like a musical bowel movement that only got about halfway there, amounting to some half-hearted gas and a few brown flakes.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Pardon the disgusting comparison, but this song is the musical equivalent of an anal fissure. And if you’ve ever heard Kevin Smith talk about an anal fissure, you know it ain’t pretty. I’m not even going to get into the actual music. The lyrics are enough of a stain on the soul of humanity all on their own. This song pretty much does what the dog is doing in this comic strip.

Someday a rain will come and wash away all the brain-dead Auto-Tuned scum, leaving all the weak and tone-deaf voices exposed for their true selves, and this artificial bullshit will no longer be enough to provide the springboard for and then form the basis of an entire career. It might not happen in my lifetime, but it’ll be a great day nonetheless. The death of at least a small amount of artifice. Maybe a little bit of the stuff that can actually be called real music will trickle to the surface, having a little less rancid crap to compete with.

What a beautiful dream.

And…end rant. Maybe it wasn’t the best one of all time, but I think it was pretty good. It had swear words and everything. I’d put it somewhere in the top twenty.

Also, it seems I’m suddenly getting a whole lot of traffic from people searching for Kate Beckinsale. All this based on one post where I mentioned her in one sentence, briefly, in the context of a Chandler mixing console. Interesting. I would post a whole whack of pictures of Kate to placate anyone who’s come here looking for her only to leave disappointed, but that would feel a little odd.

Elsewhere, this is the time of year when my Wurlitzer is at its friendliest, so there may be a fair amount of it showing up on at least one of the forthcoming albums. The action always gets a little sticky and develops a bad attitude during the colder months, though the tuning is never effected. This makes it a little frustrating to record, because you’ll be playing a song when suddenly a few notes just don’t make any sound when you press down on the keys. The summer is apparently Wurlitzer Season, when the weird action dissipates for a good few months, so I’d best be taking advantage of the respite.

It goes without saying that you should expect to hear a little bit of just about everything on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, from thirty-second acoustic fragments, to ten-minute spoken word pieces, to weird electronic tracks, salsa, and everything in-between. As for what to expect from HELLHOUND, well…I seem to be concentrating an awful lot on acoustic guitar. I don’t know why acoustic keeps trumping electric most of the time. I’m long overdue to let it rip on an electric guitar over the course of a whole album instead of just a song or two here and there. It must be the wood.

The lyrics I’m writing right now feel like some of the best I’ve written in a while. There are plenty of typical Johnny West-isms (whatever that means), but there are also some ideas and issues being addressed that are quite a bit larger and more serious than the things I typically sing about. There’s a song called “Everyone You Love Is Dead” (now there’s a cheerful title!) that ponders what the afterlife may or may not be like, assuming there is such a thing. There’s a song written from the perspective of a man whose partner commits suicide because of the atrocities he witnesses while participating in what may or may not be the war in Iraq. Another song spends most of its time comparing the behaviour of a sociopath to that of a professional assassin. This is not typical subject matter for me. I couldn’t tell you where it’s coming from. As usual, it’s just the stuff that comes out.

I hope you’re all naked in hammocks somewhere, enjoying the summer weather and scaring people with your lack of tan lines. I know I am.

No, I don’t want to have a slumber party in your basement.

Making little promos/trailers is easier — and a lot more fun — than I thought it would be. I made this using a crappy free program that came with my computer, in about ten minutes, and I’m almost a little bit proud of it. Hell, if I had the video footage Tyson shot of us recording and goofing around (a part of me will always regret not getting a copy of that stuff when I had the chance, especially since there’s a good chance none of it exists anymore), I could probably make a pretty neat little documentary trailer out of it and then piece together an actual documentary.

As it stands, I made what could almost pass as a documentary trailer. Just change some of the text, make it “a film about Guys with Dicks”, and it’s all the way there. But it’s for something that isn’t a film at all — an hour-long conversation Tyson and I recorded when our band was at its most exciting. It’s something not even someone who heard the music we made would likely have any interest in. How entertaining can it be to listen to two guys talk about a band no one knew existed in the first place?

Maybe if there was some ambient instrumental music swimming underneath all the talking, like what’s in the video, it would sweeten the deal a bit. I kind of like the idea of improvising for an hour on an electric guitar or something to make a bed for our voices. But this isn’t something that was ever intended to be heard by anyone. It was just us getting foggy, talking about the weird little band we had, and recording the conversation on the mixer because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

After close to a decade of letting the recording collect dust, I think it’s about time I mixed it. A pretty simple job when there are just two tracks to work with. I’m only really doing it to have for myself, and I made the video for fun because the idea popped into my head. I wanted to see if I could do it. It ended up surpassing my expectations.

I could still make my own kind of documentary, but it would mostly just be me talking about things that happened, showing some pictures, playing some music. Again, probably not very compelling to anyone but me. I’d have to find a whole lot of pictures to keep things visually interesting, and it would work much better if I had more video footage to work with.

I could interview Gord and ask him some questions, but I think it’s safe to say (and this isn’t a dig) I remember more about those days and the music we made than anyone else does. My brain is like a sponge for musical details. It’s always been that way. I don’t know why. Tracking down most of the other people who were there at the time would be difficult at best, and given how much alcohol and drugs were being consumed by everyone, it’s difficult to say how much they would remember.

In spite of all this, part of me still wishes I had whatever might be left of Tyson’s footage so I could play with piecing something together, even if no one would ever see the end results. I have this inexplicable need to preserve everything I remember of this time while a lot of it’s still there in my memory — to make a record of who we were and what we did, as a supplement and contrast to the music we made. Even though, again, I’m the only person in the world who would have any real interest in it.

As it stands, I’m in the process of “reissuing” several of the Guys with Dicks CDs, giving them proper artwork for the first time, and I’m going to end up remixing at least a few of them to make them sound as good as they can.

I feel a strange nostalgia about all of this stuff. It’s not just because it’s the eighth anniversary of the band’s breakup right now, more or less. Eight years since we last sat in the music room at the house on Chilver and made music together. It feels like maybe two years have gone by, not eight.

But my relationship with time is dicey at best. It’s like a million grains of rice falling from the sky. I manage to catch a few here and there, but most of them slip through my fingers, and after a while I give up because my hands can only hold so much. I remember sitting at my cubicle doing my bullshit telemarketing job, looking at the computer, feeling like the day would never end. That was in late 2001.

I can’t even remember the last time I had that feeling. For years now, time flies whether I’m having fun or not.

But if I talk too much about time, this will turn into a long-winded mess. And we’re heading there already, because…well…you know me. It’s what I do.

I guess the nostalgia makes sense. I had a band with two of my best friends. We shared a lot of things and had some pretty strange adventures. I think we were probably closer to one another than we were with our girlfriends (though I was the one guy in the group who was chronically single), at least for the eight months or so we spent as a trio before it all imploded.

It was the sort of thing Hollywood makes really awful coming-of-age movies about. I somehow doubt they’d want to recreate the time I was snarling, “Asphyxiate on your own vomit!” into a microphone and scaring Tyson with my facial expressions, or the night I locked myself out of my own house after work and through sheer dumb luck managed to end up at Gord’s place for a memorable evening of pizza, beer, and pot. But they were cinematic experiences for me.

The whole thing was like a great, strange movie. I was the antihero who never got the girl, and on some level it needed to be that way. If I was lucky in love, with a dream job and no feelings of teenage angst, a lot of the music we made wouldn’t exist. If there wasn’t that need for catharsis, the whole last phase of the band never would have happened at all, and we just would have petered out after A ROOMFUL OF SEXINESS when Andrew moved to Welland and it seemed like our brief flirtation with becoming a proper band was over.

Some of the best and worst times of my life were spent in that band with those two guys. We were a fiercely united little trio for a while, and then we started to grow apart, like misguided weeds who once shared a common purpose but bent away from knowing what it was. If I ever get around to writing a musical memoir (and if I do, it won’t be something I publish or really share with anyone, because who would want to read a thousand pages of me rambling about myself and my music anyway?), this time and the music made within it will be a very important, lengthy part of it all.

For all the drama and depression, I discovered a voice I didn’t know I had, and it altered the fabric of who I thought I was and the kind of music I thought I could make. I ended up trying to destroy myself, and to some extent I succeeded, but instead of dissolving into nothing I found a new self rising from the ashes of who I thought I was. It was kind of unnerving and empowering at the same time.

Whoa. Dude. That’s so deep, I think I’m going to drown.

Listening to me and Tyson talking about it all is like stepping back in time. Much like the Papa Ghostface song I talked about in the last post, I thought I had a pretty good memory of how the conversation went, but I hadn’t listened to it in years. In this case, while what I heard when I dumped it back on the mixer was much closer to my memory of our discussion than what happened with the song I thought was a dud, I was surprised how much more articulate we were than I remembered. There’s some silliness, and there are a few places where I lose my train of thought because I’m high and Tyson is doing that thing he would sometimes do, jerking the conversation in an unexpected direction without warning. But there are also some pretty philosophical things being discussed.

We spend a lot of time trying to pick our band apart and figure out what makes us tick, why we can’t give a simple name to our “sound”, and how it all happened. After an hour, I try one last time to put it all together while Tyson bangs on the African drums, having lost interest in the conversation. So I go out of my way to turn the whole thing into an improvised approximation of bad high school poetry. Then Tyson leaves and I finish up on my own.

One interesting bit comes near the beginning. Tyson asks me what my philosophy on life is. I’m caught off guard, but talk about how maybe life is just a series of meetings. People come into your life, you change them, you’re changed by them, some of them stick around for a while, some are fleeting connections, and the beat goes on. Being high made it seem like a deeper thought than it really was, but I think there’s some truth in there.

When we talk about the whole band living together under one roof and Tyson says he wants the basement, it’s kind of a poignant moment. We probably would have ended up hating one another if we lived together, but it felt like a romantic idea at the time, all of us in the same house, making music all the time. I even thought it might really happen for a hot minute.

I miss that camaraderie sometimes.

Would I trade the music I’ve made on my own over the last eight years to have it back, though? I don’t know. We broke up for a reason, and none of the music I’ve made on my own since then would have been possible if we stayed together.

Maybe the connection and odd sense of musical telepathy is what I miss the most. That’s a difficult thing to find with anyone. To find it with two different people at the same time is pretty special. The only time I’ve really stumbled across something similar was when I recorded some piano and upright bass improvisations with Max. But I see Max about as often as I see Faith Hill in my closet draped in a beach towel.

Even if I really wanted to get another band together to try and recapture some of that improvisational spark, it would be almost impossible to make it work. So much of it has to do with luck and everything lining up just right. And if you got me, Gord, and Tyson together in the same room today and we strapped on our instruments, I don’t think it would be the same.

That band and that music belong to that time. We’re different people now. I think it only worked because of who we were then, and because of that specific room we were making music in. If you compare the music I’m making now with what Gord’s doing in Surdaster and what Tyson is doing with whatever technical metal band he happens to be in at the moment, it’s hard to believe we were ever on the same page at all.

Kind of funny to think the only drummer I ever worked with who was really sensitive to what I was doing and never smashed the hell out of the drums just because he could was someone who spent most of his time playing in hardcore and metal bands. Tyson was a good drummer, regardless of what kind of music he was playing. You’d never guess he mainly played metal from our music, because there are really no metal-isms in what he did on our songs. And he knew how to listen and react to the music instead of trying to overpower it. That’s a skill I think a lot of musicians overlook, as crucial as it is. He could get aggressive when it was called for. He could also lay back and be subtle.

Gord and I already had a deep musical connection we’d forged through Papa Ghostface. It became something different when Tyson came into the picture and it got split three ways. Instead of “Papa Ghostface with drums”, we were our own unique musical entity. I still don’t know what genre we fit into. We were closer to a proper “rock” band than anything else I’ve done, but we didn’t play rock music.

The closest anyone around us got to coming up with a name for what we did was calling it “stoner music”. Tyson called it “fucked”. I didn’t know what to call it. I still don’t.

In hindsight, it seems to me we started out deconstructing what a three-piece guitar/bass/drums band was supposed to be, stretching songs out into improvised weirdness until you could barely call them songs anymore. On SUBLIMINAL BILE two songs are more than thirteen minutes long and the rest are rarely shorter than seven. Then we started wading into more conventional territory without really noticing we were doing it, shortening the songs and introducing more structure, all while I spilled my guts into the microphone with no effort to edit myself or sugarcoat what I was feeling.

After everything, I still feel a connection to those guys. I guess you don’t go through that much together, record ten albums of original material, put together a few superfluous compilations, and not feel you’re somehow connected no matter how far from one another life takes you. Even with Tyson, who I haven’t spoken to in a long time, it’s still there. It almost feels like we grew up together. Maybe in some strange microcosmic way we did.

I could talk about this for days. Maybe we should move on to something else before I get too faux-philosophical and rambly.

But one last thought on this subject before I veer off somewhere else.

If I were to try and put together some sort of film about the band, I could use that hour-long conversation as narration, taking the most interesting bits and sticking some music underneath them. We touched on quite a few things that would be pretty relevant — the strangeness of how we met in the first place, our inability to figure out what we sounded like, songs I meant to be solo vehicles turning into band songs, how we influenced each other musically, the differences between the physically violent music Tyson was playing in other bands and the emotional violence of the music we were making, the strange, special something about that music room in that house, and there’s even a bit where Tyson insists I’m the leader of the band (though a few months down the road I sure as hell wouldn’t feel like it anymore).

There are enough good sound bites there to form the backbone of the whole thing. Between that conversation, onscreen titles, and maybe a bit of new narration and commentary, I think there’s enough to get across the nuts and bolts of who we were and what we did. I could do it even without the footage Tyson shot, though it would be nice to be able to work it in somewhere. I could include the entire performance of “Something About Lies” from one of our few live shows, and chunks of other recorded songs.

There’s a bit during the stoned conversation where we talk about the first Guys with Dicks album, and I remind Tyson how frustrating it was to have him keep interrupting takes and causing false starts because he didn’t know we were recording. You could take me talking about that and then transition right into one of the songs on WITHOUT DICKS where he interrupted, before we went on to record one of the best songs on the album twenty seconds later.

It wouldn’t be an award-winning or amazing-looking film. I probably don’t have enough pictures or video content to make it as visually interesting as I’d like it to be. But it might be something neat to have up here. Papa Ghostface and Guys with Dicks only get about a minute each of screen-time in I Am Not a Seagull, when both those projects are important parts of my musical history and I’m still proud of a lot of the work we did. I think they deserve to be more than just a two-part obscure footnote.

I’m not going to push the stuff on people. But it’s there if anyone wants to hear it. Part of the reason I’m working on putting together artwork for all the old CDs is so I can finally feel comfortable giving them to people, because now they’ll really look like proper albums. And even though I said before it would be too much work remixing the late-period GWD albums, I think if I don’t do it now I’m never going to stop wondering how much I might have been able to improve the sound quality. It would only take me a few days to do it all, really, because there aren’t a lot of tracks there in any given song, and there are only five or six albums I really want to take a crack at.

Actually, scratch that. Too much work, and as soon as I wrote that, I learned some of the backup CDs from eight years ago are a little janky now. Some of those albums won’t load back onto the mixer in full. There probably isn’t much I could do to improve the sound of something like STELLAR anyway, aside from cutting out a bit of low end mud.

I did, however, remix WITHOUT DICKS, and I managed to make it sound quite a bit better than it did the first time around. My first mix wasn’t atrocious, but there was some mud in my bass sound and the acoustic guitars were kind of murky-sounding. I was able to cut out the mud while giving the bass more definition, and the acoustic guitars now sound a lot better. I heard licks in there I’d never heard before, particularly from Gord. I didn’t have much equipment at the time and wasn’t set up to record four people live off the floor, but it came out sounding surprisingly good all things considered. Even the drums have a nice amount of punch to them for only being recorded with a single SM57 (it’s possible some of the bleed from the other mics helped out there too).

I’d say it was worth the effort in that case. There are a few other things I still think I could probably improve enough to justify remixing/remastering them too, if the backup CDs ever decide to cooperate with me. But I have to weigh it against how much time I want to take away from the new music I’m supposed to be working on. And right now, the new stuff is the priority.

It’s funny. Not long ago, I was working on one ridiculously ambitious new album. Now I’m working on two (maybe three) different new albums, plus reissuing a large chunk of the back catalogue a few CDs at a time, plus toying with the idea of piecing together a GWD documentary at some point, plus thinking about putting together some sort of video following the making of the new albums, plus thinking about eventually trying to put together the Mackenzie Hall live stuff as a CD/DVD combo, plus trying to keep track of all the new songs and ideas that keep coming out while all of this is going on and figuring out where they want to go.

Apparently I’m not good at keeping things simple.

But onward, to other things.

I was thinking about it. Deleting my Spyspace account, I mean. I never really even check in over there anymore. I’d say Myspace has become a bit passé, but I never paid any attention to what social networking platform was considered the de facto artist’s space in the first place. The cool kid these days seems to be Bandcamp — which makes a lot more sense, since it actually is about just the music and not how many friends you have, because you’re not allowed to have Bandcamp friends as far as I can tell. In a year or two it’ll be something else. Most of them seem a bit redundant to me when you have your own website or blog where you can put up whatever you want, in whatever format you like, and you can say whatever pops into your head without fear of reprisal or ugly advertisements popping up.

I guess I made a Myspace page four or five years ago because I felt obligated. Then I did nothing with it, tried to delete it, got impatient when it didn’t disappear, and about two years back I decided i might as well put up some pictures, some music, a bit of information, and make it look something like a proper Myspace music page. I even found a way to work around the Myspace music player, which has some of the most hideous-sounding MP3 encoding/streaming I’ve ever heard in my life. I’m convinced major record labels have some under-the-table deal where they pay Myspace to remove the layers of shit introduced by the player from their artists’ songs, because the crappy pop music on Myspace always seems to sound a whole lot less painful than the good stuff by people who are signed to small indie labels or not signed at all.

My solution has been to use html to make the Myspace player disappear altogether, importing a different Flash player, hosting the files over here so they don’t take any more hits after they’re encoded as MP3s the first time. It’s worked well enough for what it’s supposed to be, and I’ve made/found a few friends because of it, but my heart has never really been in it. After a few years I have less than sixty Myspace friends because I don’t go around adding every conceivable band and person I can find who might stand a 2% chance of being into my music, and I don’t accept friend requests from random bands unless I happen to like the music or the person sending the request actually says something to me that isn’t a spam message copied and pasted a thousand times a day to try and irritate people into paying attention to them.

The whole digital networking thing in general just isn’t where I hang my hat. I understand why people do it, and I think it can be very useful depending on what you’re doing, but for what I want to do it’s a little beside the point. In order for my Spyspace page to come anywhere near reflecting who I am and what I really sound like, I’d have to put up about a hundred songs, a bunch of videos, a lot more pictures, and post regular blogs there. It makes more sense to me to keep the updates regular over here, when this blog gets exponentially more traffic than the Spyspace page does and it’s already got a little sampling of just about everything I’ve done over the past decade and-a-bit.

A lot of the social networking stuff is starting to seem like a waste of time to me in general. Most people don’t use these things to communicate with anyone in any meaningful way. I think the creators of some of the sites had good intentions, but they’ve all basically turned into the same thing in the hands of the masses. I would argue there’s less real communication going on between people than there was before this stuff came along (noise does not equal communication). Twitter and Facebook and JunkBox make it cool to be brief, impersonal, and to “like” things you don’t actually like, all while bathed in the light of a bathroom.

(I made “JunkBox” up. But I bet there really is a site with that name somewhere out there.)

I have a Myspace page and a CBC Radio 3 page as sort of a compromise. But you will never, ever see me on Twitter. I draw the line there. Again, I can understand the appeal. It’s just not for me. Can you see me condensing what I want to say into a hundred-and-forty characters or less?

Just recorded song about Russian flying squirrel mafioso’s downfall, botched suicide, redemption in prison. Lots of yodelling. Penis.

Not gonna happen. All I would do on Twitter is post links to posts I make here (when most of my friends on Twitter would be people who already check out what’s going on here), maybe link to the occasional ridiculous YouTube video, and throw out the odd nonsense statement. I can already do all those things here and be as long-winded as I like about it.

Roger Ebert wrote a recent piece on his blog about how Twitter has allowed him to engage in something like normal conversation with people again for the first time since losing the ability to speak. In that case I think it really is a good thing. But to me, Twitter is a bit like shaking hands with a muffin. Sure, you can lick the crumbs off your hand, but wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to just eat the thing? Me, I wanna eat that muffin.

I think I was working up to some sort of point here.

Right. I was going to delete Myspace. It seemed like a step in the right direction. There have been times in the past when I’ve been tempted to delete every shred of my existence online, including this blog, right down to getting rid of any and every email address I’ve ever used. But those were angry days, and I’m a serene ocean of calm now. It is, however, tempting at times to get rid of Myspace, Facebook, and other such things when they seem to serve no real purpose aside from occasionally filling the role of “sometimes entertaining time-killer”.

Facebook’s convenient points outweigh the pointless points thus far, so I’m keeping it, but I’ve been shaving down my friends list a bit. I dumped about a dozen people who were only really friends of convenience (their convenience, not mine), and even though I knew the chances of them noticing we were no longer Facebook friends — as if anyone gives a shit about something so trivial — were slim, it felt good to be free of the dead weight.

Myspace hasn’t done much of anything for me over the past year or so, except provide me with a reason to type and say “Spyspace” instead of using its proper nomenclature when it enters a discussion. I don’t even use my actual name or the name of any musical project I’ve ever been involved in for my music profile, so it’s unlikely anyone looking for me will ever find me there. Type my name into Google and both the CBC Radio 3 page and this blog pop up right away. Spyspace is nowhere to be found. This was intentional, and my way of avoiding promotional silliness, but it makes the existence of the page even more pointless. At least on Facebook there’s some communication happening from time to time.

Here is where I would tell you I just deleted my Spyspace page and I am now a new man…if I’d gone ahead and terminated the thing. Instead, I am the same penis-with-a-torso I was yesterday. Rather than deleting the page, I took down all the songs I had up there and put up one brand new song just for the halibut. Mmm…halibut.

I think I’ll delete Spyspace sometime soon. But in the meantime, might as well give it one last grope for old time’s sake.

As for the song, I still haven’t quite figured out what to call it. “Get Born” is far too obvious and lame as titles go. I’ll come up with something. And I’m not sure which new album this song will end up on, but I’ll find it a home somewhere.

Recording it was an interesting process. I talked about it a little bit in the last video where I went through bits of a few things on the mixer. It started out as just a drum patch on the Alesis Micron, played with my fingers in real-time with no click track. There was no song at all. I ran the Micron into the POD with a delay set to decay in a weird way, ran that into the Fender Twin Reverb, mic’d it, and then put an amp simulator effect on that. Which makes no sense. But it made for a gritty sound I found myself enjoying.

I recorded about six minutes of this, left it for a day or two, and then sort of built up an improvised song around it. First I recorded an organ patch on the Micron in much the same way the initial synth drum track was recorded, minus the amp simulator effect, alternating between playing a few chords and making dissonant, atonal sounds while messing with filters and oscillation. I more or less doubled this part, plugged into a different amplifier, for a stereo spread. Then I recorded a third organ part in stereo with no amplifier in the signal path, to beef things up a bit. I added bass, drums, piano, electric guitar, wrote some words, sang them, and there was a song.

There’s a bit of an odd dichotomy at work. It’s got a conventional, unmysterious chord progression repeated several times with no real hook, followed by dissonant sections of weirdness. Sonically it’s another story. Almost every sound was recorded in an unusual way for me. I think the bass is pretty much the only thing that isn’t distorted or processed in some way. The drums were smashed to hell with compression and distortion, which is not the way I normally treat drums. At one point near the end there’s even some wah on them. Wah drums! I don’t think I’ve gone for anything even approaching that sound since the Papa Ghostface song “Piece of Crap in Your Shoe” ten years ago.

The piano has slapback echo on it. The vocals are heavily treated, and during the “freakout” sections they morph into harsh noise with the delay feeding back on itself and distorting. The electric guitar is double-tracked and sounds like electric guitar, but there are some dissonant slide bits in there too. The whole thing is a bottom-heavy, murky beast, and I like it that way. I thought about carving out some more low end and working on bringing more clarity to individual elements of the mix, but I don’t think it would sound quite right. It seems appropriate to have everything bleeding into everything else. I also thought of adding even more organ, or maybe some Wurlitzer. Then I decided not to. It’s probably dense-sounding enough as it is.

I’d like to think this isn’t far off from the sort of thing Gord and O would be doing if we were to start working on new Papa Ghostface material. I also find it interesting how, even when I go out of my way make things sound “bad” or record elements of a song the “wrong” way, the results are a lot kinder to the ears than a lot of things I did in the past where I was trying to make it all sound good.

Better equipment? Better ears? Better luck? Who knows.

Seems I’ve gone from posting roughly every other day to posting a mini-novel once a week. And, no longer content to dig up ridiculous pictures on the internet, I’ve taken to butchering them to add my own spin. What can it all mean?

I can tell you the lack of action here lately comes down to a combination of the usual sleep weirdness and being incredibly busy. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I’m on fire right now (maybe someone just slipped some hot coals in my underwear and I’m slowly seething), but I haven’t been working on so many different things at once since probably 2004, when I was mixing NUDGE YOU ALIVE and the PAVEMENT HUGGING DADDIES EP at the same time i was recording BRAND NEW SHINY LIE and GROWING SIDEWAYS, and then later recording WHO YOU ARE NOW IS NOT WHAT YOU WERE BEFORE.

Mark my words with a light blue sharpie marker: by the end of the summer new music will be out there, and there’s going to be a whole lot of it. Expect more than a few long song titles. One of my favourites right now is “Slow Dancing in the Small Intestine of a Rather Large Animal”. If you guessed that one was a ballad, you guessed right.

On another note, I think I’ve discovered how to keep up the musical momentum when my sleep is off-kilter — record weird electronic music at 4:00 in the morning. I did this the other day and ended up with something dark, twitchy, and maybe the closest I’ve ever come to authentic IDM territory. I was going to add vocals but decided the song worked better without singing. It sounds more like old school Autechre than Johnny West, only a little more humanized, because everything was played manually by a person with fingers and no software or computers were used. I like it.

Everybody wishes for more wishes. Where’s the originality in that?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: blog neglect is a sad thing. But from time to time, it’s an unavoidable evil. As George W. Bush said, “Sometimes you need a break from the internets, because families is where our nation finds hope — where wings take dream.”

To make up for this most recent instance of wings taking dream, here’s some fairly lengthy rambliness (shut up, Firefox…”rambliness” is a word, because I say it is), beginning with a random little video. There’s a lot more on the mixer I meant to get to, but I ran out of space on the camera after only going through pieces of a few songs. Dig the single long grey hair. I wonder what it wants out of life.

Since I got cut off prematurely while in the middle of explaining how I recorded some acoustic guitar but it sounded a bit too trebly and percussive to really work in the context of the song, I felt it was only appropriate to end with a repetition of my instructions to the mixer to come on, time-stretched and warped with a cheesy effect.

I’m not sure why I was so strangely animated while talking this time. And I should have looked into the camera more when I was speaking, but then I wouldn’t be able to see what I was doing on the mixer. All of those songs will probably end up on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE.

There will be more video action later on, but first…

One of the things I meant to play a bit of in the video, but didn’t get to, is an old Papa Ghostface song that was given a tentative title of “The Magic Fatty”. It was recorded about two seconds after I finished work on KEEP YOUR SCARS, which takes us back to October of 2002. Up until “On Your Life” came out of nowhere two years ago (and I still haven’t figured out what to do with that bit of one-off reunion residue), it was shaping up to be the last new Papa Ghostface song there ever was.

I don’t remember much about the night it was recorded. Gord came over to the house on Chilver, long before the crackheads came to haunt us, and we ate some pizza, drank some beer, and had some laughs. Then we sat down to make some music. My cheap Strat copy had just become a six-string again, and I wasn’t too happy about it. The high E string was borrowed to replace a broken string on a rented Les Paul just before we recorded “She’s Awfully Lovely” for YOU’RE A NATION back in 1999. It was only supposed to be temporary, but I found myself liking the guitar as a five-string. Losing a string seemed to free me up to experiment with tunings and try different things, and when I did finally go to the trouble of replacing all the strings — not because I wanted to (I hate the sound of new strings and never change them unless they break), but because I felt it was important for me to learn how to change strings, and Gord was nice enough to show me — I made sure to rip that high E back off in a hurry.

Even after I had better guitars at my disposal, I still found plenty of uses for the five-string red thing. During the late-period Guys with Dicks days it became my go-to “heavy” guitar for sludgier material, and it’s the only guitar I used on the low-fat version of the CASTRATED EP — now available with proper artwork for the first time ever! Holy frozen bean sprouts! Something about that cheap single coil pickup just sounded sweet to me when I would dial in a lot of distortion, and it was easy enough to avoid the dead frets.

By the fall of 2002 a few dead frets had turned into too many, and the humbucker pickup had stopped working altogether. It was time to bring it in to Schlong & McLame. The guy who took my order tried valiantly to convince me the cost of repairs, while reasonable, was more than the guitar was worth. He reasoned I’d be better off buying a new Squier Strat copy or something to replace it, so I could come back in a few years to trade it in for something else and they could give me a fraction of the resale value of the guitar and smile knowing they would mark it up by 400% the second I left the store, giving me a good ass-fu…I mean nothing.

By this time I’d learned enough to know what a good guitar was. A Squier trying to pretend it was a Strat would be more of a sideways move than any kind of step up. If I was going to buy any kind of new Strat, it was going to be a Fender.

My Strat copy was not a “good” guitar. But it was mine, and it was a part of my musical history. No way was I going to dump it over a bill of a hundred bucks. I had the work done, the dead frets came back to life, and then I got the guitar back with all six strings, in standard tuning. It looked wrong somehow. Like a beautiful actress who’s had some plastic surgery when she really didn’t need it. Sure, her nose was a little crooked, but that was why you found her attractive. Her flaws made her interesting.

I came close to ripping the offensive string right back off of the fretboard again, but something stopped me. I decided to play around with some new tunings, since this guitar had always taken anything I threw at it without much trouble. I slowly found myself starting to like it as a six-string. Isn’t that one of the seven stages of guitar grief, when something has been modified and you’re not entirely happy about it? Grudging acceptance? No?

Anyway, when we sat down to record I picked up this guitar, using a new tuning I’d been messing with a little bit. Gord grabbed the bass and we sketched out a few ideas. I made a drum loop on the Yamaha W-5 synth (still a year away from having its revenge on NUDGE YOU ALIVE), and we recorded about nine minutes instrumental improv that started out sounding like a soft echo of the Guys with Dicks track “We’re out of Tuna” before developing into its own unique thing. I messed around at the synthesizer for some overdubbed atmosphere, flicking through different patches, playing random things through the whole song with no real direction. I thought it was pretty mediocre and figured I’d cut most of the synth stuff out of the mix later on.

Then I thought we might turn this into one of our demented spoken word tracks — something along the lines of “What They Had Was So Pure” or “The Happy Dentist”. I found something I’d written back in high school called “The Magic Fatty”. It was just a few paragraphs of setup for a bizarre story I intended to finish and never did. It was written with this exact thing in mind — making a weird Papa Ghostface spoken word track out of it. I thought I would improvise the story as I went during the recording process, which was my whole modus operandi back then. After all, “What They Had Was So Pure” started out with a written sketch that was very unfinished, only to grow legs and head off in an unexpected direction when I was forced to improvise the meat of the story while recording the vocal track.

So I put on a goofy voice and talked about this mythical marijuana cigarette that was shrouded in mystery, and started telling a story about how, when I smoked it, a holy mackerel appeared before me and granted three wishes. After wishing for more wishes and being denied, I wished to eat my fishy wish-giver and was rebuffed. And then I had nothing else in my head, and it was less than two minutes into the song. I hit on the idea of adding some demented falsetto singing with a rhythmic delay effect, but the words weren’t coming.

What had come so easily to me in the past wasn’t there this time, and leaving the song instrumental seemed like an admission of defeat. We ran out of steam after that and the evening wound down with nothing else recorded. Shortly thereafter, Gord and I went our separate ways musically, he to form Sürdaster and me to record a whole lot of solo albums. Papa Ghostface didn’t break up so much as go dark, and while we’ve threatened to wake the beast a few times since then, it hasn’t yet stirred for long enough to do much more than scribble out a few of its more interesting dreams before drifting off to sleep again.

So the song sat unmixed, remembered but not listened to, for seven and-a-half years.

Fast-forward to the present day. The world is overrun with artistically vacant musical atrocities like Stereos, Justin Bieber, and Wondersexstuffmuffinface, Paris Hilton’s infamous Spanish poodle who fancies himself a singer. I’m in the process of giving a few dozen albums from the back catalogue the proper packaging they never received the first time around, and I arrive at the final Papa Ghostface album, KISSING THE BALD SPOT. This is a posthumous collection made up of out-takes from the PAPER CHEST HAIR sessions and some things recorded later on when GWD had all but taken over — tracks we considered album material, though they never quite found an album to live on.

At the time I put it together, back in the summer of 2002, I had yet to gather all the finished material from the CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES solo sessions in one place, so I dumped some of the newly mixed tracks on KISSING THE BALD SPOT to pad out the album and bring the runtime up to about an hour, since the recording dates for CHILDREN and CHEST HAIR overlapped to the point of blurring together.

I was pretty happy with my sequencing for a few years. Not so much anymore. For a while now I’ve been meaning to get rid of the solo tracks that don’t really belong and replace them with some other out-takes to make it a true PG album. Problem is, while there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of forty or fifty Papa Ghostface out-takes unavailable in any official capacity, the majority of them are either (a) not worth putting on a proper album, (b) not in a format that allows me to remix them, and with existing sound quality that isn’t good enough to make the grade — “If You Were Mine” and “You Are Me”, two of our better and more interesting non-album tracks, sadly fall into this category — or (c) not bad songs, but just not really compatible with the rest of the material on BALD SPOT and not anything I could throw on the CD without disrupting the flow of the whole thing.

The one song I think might fit in is this “Magic Fatty” thing, and at eight minutes and change it’s long enough to help keep things at a decent length even without the CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES tracks. Maybe if I get all revisionist on the song’s ass, adding real drums and some new vocals, it’ll become something a lot more interesting. So I dump it back on the mixer — again, not having heard it in more than seven years, but remembering it as a middling, waffling instrumental with unrealized potential.

The first thing I notice is the quality of sounds I have to work with. It’s a whole lot better than most other Papa Ghostface material, sonically speaking, because I had much more equipment by late 2002 and knew a lot more about how to get decent sounds out of it. I clean up Gord’s bass, getting rid of some low frequency mud, and manage to carve it into something defined and upfront without too much work. Too bad I didn’t know how to kill the mud like this back when we were recording those GWD albums…but I don’t have the time or energy to go back and remix that stuff right now. Maybe I’ll get to it someday. Or maybe the music should be left alone.

Sure, it would technically sound better if I cleaned up the low end, did what I could to bring out the drums more on some of the songs where Tyson completely killed the snare’s attack through bad mic placement, and pushed my voice way up in the mix. But it would be like painting new additions on a mural you finished years ago. Maybe you’re a better artist now, but the whole point of the work is that it exists as a document of who you were and what you were capable of then. I didn’t particularly like my voice back in those days, and I went out of my way to bury it in the mix and slather it in slapback echo so it became just another instrument. And I didn’t know much about EQ, nor did I have the bass DI tools I have now, so the bass doesn’t have as much definition as it could and there’s some mud in places.

Maybe that’s as it should be. I feel a bit uneasy about the whole revisionist mixing thing in most cases, and sometimes sit uneasily on the fence with “the overall sound could be improved quite a bit” on one side, and “it sounds good enough, and the way I meant for it to sound at the time” on the other. It’s possible I could make everything sound a little better without messing with the spirit of the original recordings, but I think it would be a tricky thing to navigate. And it really would take a lot of time to do and necessitate clearing everything off of the mixer for a while, killing the ability to record any new material until I was finished. These are huge albums we’re talking about, often pushing the limits of how much music a single CD can hold, and most of them were recorded as one complete file, with all of the songs (and out-takes, and sound checks) in one place, bleeding into one another. It’s a huge job to undertake for music only a small group of people outside of myself would even have any interest in.

Maybe I’ll get to it someday in the not-too-distant future. Maybe when all this stuff I’m working on right now is finished.

But where were we? I’m playing with the mix, surprised by how workable the raw sounds are. I get things sounding pretty good, and then I pull up the synth track. What sounded like aimless crap back then now sounds off-kilter in a good way, and it fits the song. At the time it was recorded I thought I would keep a few pieces here and there, but most of it would end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. Now I find myself keeping it all. I kill most of the vocal track (the half-assed attempt at a story goes nowhere and is as lame as I remember), retaining only the brief bits of falsetto weirdness and a few odd words that seem to work when taken completely out of context.

I mess around with some subtle dub-like effects on the drum loop, adding delay and reverb here and there in real-time when I feel like it, and thicken it up a bit with some compression. I add a bit of reverb to the synth sounds and my electric guitar to give things a bit more body and atmospheric heft. I was still using a POD at the time we recorded this instead of mic’ing up an actual amp, but the guitar sounds pretty good. I make a mix, “print” it to CD, listen to it, hear nothing that makes me want to take another pass at it, and am kind of stunned to find myself really enjoying this song I’ve completely neglected since the night it was recorded.

What I dismissed for years as a substandard out-take is now probably one of my favourite instrumental songs we ever recorded. It sounds like the beginning of a new chapter in the Papa Ghostface story we never bothered to explore any further, and the musicianship is light years ahead of what we were doing a few years earlier. My guitar-playing has reached a level of fluidity I couldn’t even come within sniffing distance of on PAPER CHEST HAIR, firing off distorted chords and chiming harmonics at the same time, playing some pretty busy runs, switching back and forth between pickups and occasionally grabbing a metal slide. Gord does the same, making it sound a bit like he has four hands when he’s anchoring the low end while throwing in slide glissando’s with his pinky.

The telepathic musical connection Gord and I seemed to share almost from the beginning is still there in full force, and the whole thing dissolves in a sea of dissonance that somehow feels like the only ending there could be. I add nothing new to the song, leaving it as one guitar track, one bass track, a drum loop, a not-even-half-there vocal track, and a stereo synth track. It doesn’t need anything more after all.

After listening to it half a dozen times on repeat, I decide this has to be the first song on KISSING THE BALD SPOT. It can’t be any other way. “The Street That Got Laid” was never a great opening and always felt more like a mood piece that belonged in the middle of the album. This track is the one that belongs at the beginning (though I now need to come up with a better title than “The Magic Fatty”), and it needs to be immediately followed by “C’mon”, one of our best and most sinister pseudo-spoken word creations that never felt like it found a comfortable place in the first sequence I put together.

This means I have to rethink the whole thing and shuffle the order of the songs. It takes a bit of thinking, but I figure it out, and I think the result is an album that flows much better than it did in its first incarnation. It’s always going to feel a little scattershot no matter how I sequence it, with the songs coming from different places over a period of a little over two years, but I think it can now stand alongside YOU’RE A NATION, SHOEBOX PARADISE, and PAPER CHEST HAIR as one of the best Papa Ghostface albums (and, if there isn’t ever going to be another PG album, a fitting epitaph as well).

Before too long it will also have proper cover art for the first time ever.

This is what I drew a few weeks ago, very quickly, by hand, with a few coloured markers and a piece of paper, in an attempt at tapping into the old school crudeness of something like the original SHOEBOX PARADISE album cover.

I liked it just fine until I started messing around with the paint program, which led to an outpouring of new ideas, and this.

I like that a bit better. I think it’s supposed to be a sad turnip suffering from male pattern baldness. It’s still crude, but it seems a bit more appropriate and looks more like a proper album cover. Even SHOEBOX PARADISE now has new cover art — the random weirdness of old has been replaced by my best attempt at capturing what we looked like at the time, when I was growing my hair out for the first time ever and experiencing some of the most stylish hair days of my life (it hurts me more than you can imagine that I have no photographic evidence of just how stylish I was lookin’ at the time).

Just about every album on the sidebar at the right now has new cover art, aside from some early solo CDs I haven’t got around to yet. The whole Discography page is a pretty different beast from what it was up until a few weeks ago. It’ll take a while to get everything up to speed in terms of physical copies, but so far I’ve got a few late-period GWD CDs done, and it’s surreal to see them looking like real albums for the first time in my life. The cover art for GOOD LUCK IN THE NEXT LIFE still cracks me up.

Back to that red Strat copy for a minute.

This axe was always a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve only recently uncovered a bit of information about its lineage. Seems the makers of “Stage” guitars, whoever they were, operated out of Texas in the 1980s and early ’90s before going under, or closing shop, or getting into the adult film industry. It’s almost impossible to find any information about the company on the internet (try doing a search for “stage guitars” and finding something useful), but I did manage to find some old advertisements on a message board somewhere.

The full name is “Center Stage”. All these years I had no idea. Maybe there’s even a model number or at least a serial # hidden away somewhere that’s also evaded me all this time. Mine most closely resembles the red guitar below in the top half of the image, third from left, with white pick guard…but my guitar has two pickups and looks a bit different, and it also has a tremolo arm.

I still remember buying the guitar in the summer of 1999 from a guy who advertised it in the paper as a “Stratocaster” without any particular name. He was upfront with me on the phone about it not being a Fender. I think he said he bought the guitar for his nephew, but the young ‘un either never expressed much interest in learning how to play or he no longer had any use for the guitar. It also came with an amp, a stand, and a soft case. All for just a bit over $200.

Seemed like a deal at the time. I didn’t realize how much of a deal it was until years later. Not only is the guitar still going strong in spite of its odd lineage (it’s basically the bastard son of an unknown Texan operation), but I got a free amplifier that doesn’t sound like anything else and has added immeasurably to the music I’ve made, even if it took me until halfway through the recording of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN to realize just how cool the grunty old thing is and how good it sounds with a mic or two in front of it.

One interesting tidbit — the guy who sold me the guitar and amp also had a bunch of banjos at his place, and I asked him some questions about them. I thought it might be cool to mess around with a banjo at some point, and I wondered if you could buy a pickup to use while recording with one (shows how much I knew at the time). He told me I probably wouldn’t need a pickup, since banjos are such loud instruments, and offered to sell me one of his at some future date if I decided I was interested. Little did I know I would someday own three funky old tenor banjos and a banjitar.

I can still see the guy in my head. He was maybe in his early forties, had brown hair that was a little wavy, wire rim glasses, a friendly smile, and looked a bit like a kindly college professor. His name is lost to the sands of time, as is the classified ad I answered. But he was very nice to talk to, and I think we could have an even more stimulating conversation today, now that I kind of know what I’m doing. At the time, he told me the amp was made in the 1960s and he had just replaced the tubes. My idea of bartering was asking him, “How low would you be willing to go?” and the price dropped a bit more.

Come to think of it, that was the only time I ever bartered with anyone. As a rule I just pay the asking price.

For some reason I think his name might have been Mark. Maybe someday, some way, he’ll stumble across this blog and fail to recognize me, since I scarcely resemble the short-haired, clean-cut fifteen-year-old I was when he last saw me and I don’t tend to post a lot of pictures of myself here anyway. But I think he’d get a kick out of all the adventures his guitar and amp have had with me over the past eleven years.

Finally, here’s something I did just for fun — a few random bits of footage thrown together to make a half-assed “promo” video with the intent of providing a little taste of what’s on the way. I’m not sure if this one or THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE will hit the finish line first, or if they’ll both be done at the same time. Suppose we’ll find out before too long. But this other album seems to be attracting some of the catchiest songs I’ve written in quite some time. I’m not sure why. I recorded one the other day with mandola, bass, drums, piano, suitcase glockenspiel, melodica, banjo, three different miscellaneous percussion instruments, and about seven vocal tracks.

(Warning: this video is six hundred times louder than the last one, so if you hiked up the volume on your computer to hear what was going on up there I suggest you turn it way down before checking out what’s going on down here just to make sure something doesn’t explode)