now who wants to go to hell?

here’s a bit of a change of pace.

a few years before closed casket funeral came to exist, one of the best bands to come out of windsor’s metal scene was arguably fetal pulp. oddly enough, half of the band doubled as my band at the very same time.

a little less than two weeks after GOOD LUCK IN THE NEXT LIFE was committed to cd, i brought most of my equipment over to the old peabody building where tyson and the gang had their jam space, and in spite of the drummer (brandon, or “pogo’s dope” as he liked to call himself) being completely out of his head on acid, all instrumental tracks for the songs were recorded within a few short hours on the evening of november 24, 2001. it was kind of amazing how well brandon could play drums in his condition. you’d never know to listen to the album that anything was amiss. these guys were pretty damn tight, too; the drums were recorded first on their own, then bass and guitar was recorded simultaneously, and everyone knew exactly what they were doing. just about everything was done in one take. i was wearing black leather pants and a blue dress shirt. i have no idea why i remember a useless detail like that, but there it is.

tyson double-tracked his guitar parts to give them a punchier sound (something that was kind of a foreign concept to me at the time, what with the “everything must be raw and live” credo i was following with my own music), while i enjoyed not having to participate beyond engineering and recording, which didn’t seem much like work at all when i actually liked the people i was recording. i still remember the scary, decrepit thing that was brandon’s drum kit…the top head on the snare drum was just barely holding on for dear life, and the whole thing looked like it had come out of a garage circa 1832, and had somehow survived a chemical explosion at some point over the intervening years.

i returned the following day to record the vocal tracks, which doesn’t make much sense in hindsight, because you’d think jay (lead screamer) and tyson (pulling harmony screaming duty and providing all of the deep, guttural moments, and even a bit of “clean” singing on the final track) could have just come over to my place and the end result would have been exactly the same. for whatever reason, it seemed logical at the time that i would bring everything over to the jam space one day, take it all apart and bring it home, and then bring it on over again the next day and do it all a second time. tyson had quite the facility for those especially deep, evil-sounding screams, and he let one out that was so powerful, he looked for a moment like he had been punched in the stomach.

for the one song that was sort of quiet — at least for the first few minutes, before the breakdown kicked in — there weren’t really any words, so i had fun whispering some mock-evil passages under my breath. tyson heard what i was doing and tried to talk me into recording the vocals myself.

i laughed and said, “it’s your song, not mine. i don’t know what to sing.”

“you were just doing it!” tyson said. “what you were just doing was perfect!”

i told him i didn’t have any ideas, so he got jay to give me what lyrics he had written for inspiration, but it was too strange for me trying to sing to someone else’s music. i mean, some of the guys with dicks stuff was getting a little heavy at this point, but it wasn’t metal heavy. i also just didn’t feel it was my place to interject; this was tyson’s band, where he wrote the music and played all the guitar parts (before the drums had become his weapon of choice). after much friendly arguing, tyson finally gave up on me and instead chose to record ominous sounds in the place of vocals. he played with a screw on the ground. he played with the padlock on the door. he made weird sounds with his pager causing the strings on gord’s bass to vibrate. he whispered a little bit of gibberish. he threw a beer bottle on the ground three times before it finally broke. in hindsight, i kind of wish i had taken a shot at recording the vocals after all. it might be kind of neat today to be able to say there was a johnny west vocal cameo on a song by a metal band. i guess it wasn’t to be. opportunities missed…

over the next week, tyson would swing by once in a while and i would work on mixing the songs. he gave me a few tips about how things should sound (particularly on how to mix the kick drum), since i wasn’t used to working with this kind of music, and he brought along his 4-track tape recorder to dump a few things onto the mixer, including what sounded like a sound collage of televangelists that would end up serving as the opening track. it was suitably creepy, with standout moments from a woman who had been looped to repeatedly say, “now who wants to go to hell? would you want to go to hell?” in a disturbingly sing-song voice. he had me mute a few of jay’s screams where they seemed a bit superfluous or too much like rap metal.

Fetal Pulp – Super Mario Bondage

tyson would later read me part of an msn tirade brandon had sent him about how they recorded the album too quickly and it didn’t capture their full potential…which is pretty funny when you consider the fact that brandon was the only one who wasn’t entirely “present” during the recording sessions. i think everyone else was fairly happy with how it turned out.

in some ways the songs are closer to typical death metal territory than what tyson would go on to do with other bands like blindly i follow, cleansed by fire and closed casket funeral. i don’t think there are any tricky time signatures at all, though there are some cool off-kilter breakdowns (one of them is in 6/8) and at least one passage in 3/4. there’s a surprising amount of melody in some of the songs, with some passages of clean guitar and guitar harmonies, and gord plays a few things on the bass that sound like they belong in gwd songs (tyson noted this himself at the time). since i had no idea what most of the song titles were, for my own copy of the cd i came up with a few silly titles of my own to fill in the blanks, like “super mario bondage” and “your friendly neighbourhood waterbed”.

i never got heavily into metal…it never really moved me. but tyson helped to crack the code for me, and i was finally able to appreciate the amount of talent and ferocious technical skill involved when he suggested i tune out the “vocals” and just concentrate on the music. some of the screamers just seemed so ill-suited to the material, it made me wish a few metal or metalcore albums were instrumental. the surprise for me was pulling out the fetal pulp cd for a listen after not really thinking about it for years, and enjoying it more than i ever had before. i like jay’s screaming more than most other screaming i’ve heard even in much more established metal bands. he was always a really nice, quiet guy, and then he would step up to the mic and this huge voice would come roaring out of his throat. i was always amazed he could still speak after a show. brandon, even for being frazzled, does a solid job on the drums, and i still can’t believe i got the drums to sound as good as i did. gord was always a solid bassist in any genre, and he throws in some nice unexpected jabs of melody here and there. and while tyson would justifiably go on to carve out a reputation as one of the best heavy drummers around, i think he definitely held his own as a guitarist too. there’s an impressive balance between dissonance and melody in these songs, and some startlingly original riffs. i’m not sure i’ve ever heard of any other metal band using the airship theme from super mario bros. 3 as an intro.

the overall master volume is a little quiet compared to commercial releases, but other than that i think i did a pretty good job with the recording, especially considering what i had to work with at the time: no more than four microphones (nothing better than a few shure SM57s and an SM58), the art preamps, the aphex compressor and the 1680. i’m actually a little impressed with myself over how good it all sounds today, especially in light of the fact that this was not at all the kind of music i was used to recording or mixing, and i had to make creative use of the mixer’s middling built-in EQ to get some of the sounds to sit right. a few years down the road i would have better equipment and the means to produce a cleaner recording, but all in all this one sounds pretty good. hell, the guitar and bass parts weren’t even mic’d up — they were recorded direct from the amplifiers — and they still have a decent amount of beef to them.

after listening to the cd a few times and jogging some memories (only the best tracksuits for them), i almost find myself wishing i had put a bit of an effort into recording more bands at the time. my equipment was portable enough that i could go to anyone’s practice space and just set up, and my ears weren’t sensitive enough yet that the loud volume really bothered me…though maybe i would have ended up with some unwanted hearing loss if i had recorded too much heavy music, and i’d be paying for it now. aside from the friends’ bands i recorded, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in the heavy part of the music scene back then. i wasn’t into everything i saw at the gino (i never could understand the popularity of daylatehero, for example), but there were some bands i really liked and i imagine they probably never got the opportunity to have a decent recording of their material on cd. a lot of the bands didn’t stay together that long…i mean, fetal pulp (and guys with dicks, for that matter) only made it from about 2000 to 2002, and that was a pretty long run. back then i wasn’t yet completely averse to making a bit of money through music-related means, so i could have made a few bucks and helped some people out at the same time.

one band i wish i had recorded was called curse the sky. i’m not sure if they were from michigan, or guelph…i know they weren’t that far away, but they weren’t from windsor. they came down a few times to play at the gino, and showed up at a party or two at gord’s house. there’s another band on myspace now with the same name, and i’m pretty positive it isn’t the same group at all. these guys were fairly typical metal, i guess, but they had one breakdown in one of their songs that was so powerful i felt like it was going to force my lips back over my face. it still stands as perhaps my favourite breakdown i’ve ever heard in any metal song, and i wish i had more than just my memory of it to fall back on. i had a stoned epiphany during that breakdown and realized it was my mission in life to get a 12-string electric guitar, and then record the most melodic breakdown in the world, with clean guitar arpeggios. i still haven’t quite gotten around to that (the electric 12-string, or the breakdown), but there’s still time.

there was also a band called kanada (i think joe from phog was in this group?) that ended every set i ever saw them play with a cover of “keep on rockin’ in the free world” by neil young. they were much punkier than a lot of the other bands i saw live at the time, but one performance stood out for me by a proverbial mile; they played on a pretty packed bill one night at the gino, and i was high on shrooms. the thing that struck me was that for some odd reason their set was almost entirely instrumental, and it almost bordered on ska music, but without the horn section (they were a guitar/bass/drums three-piece).

i was never really one of the “gino kids”…i just went to shows here and there. but there was some cool stuff going on at the time, and everyone seemed to be pretty friendly, with no elitist scene bullshit going on. i mean, i was a long-haired guy (i steadfastly refused to ever tie my hair back unless it was absolutely necessary) wearing a leather jacket that usually had a ziplock bag holding a few joints in the inside pocket. i didn’t look or act like a metal or punk scenester, mostly because i wasn’t one. but no one ever gave me any crap. everyone was just there to have a good time. if people wanted to get high, they’d go outside. i don’t remember there being any drama. we even talked about renting the space and playing there live as guys with dicks, though it never quite happened. that would have been interesting…

anyway. i guess my point was that it’s been fun to reacquaint myself with “seed of hate” and remember how much fun we had recording it. the album art up there is just something silly i concocted; i never got a copy with the proper artwork, however many of those were made. gord is now one of the only remaining founding members of local band surdaster, brandon is in vancouver playing in a band called the electric demons (or at least he was; apparently the frontwoman passed away recently), tyson is in PEI in a hardcore band called get bodied, and i’m still here, doing whatever it is that i do.

amusingly enough, i had a dream last night that i randomly discovered all of the song titles i wasn’t sure about somewhere on the internet. of course, once i woke up, i couldn’t remember for the life of me what any of them were. but they made a lot of sense in the dream.

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