Month: January 2013

It’s a beautiful thing.

a still from the video

This video just about killed me. If you think it’s a gross exaggeration, try watching a music awards show sometime where most of the performances are delivered by pretty-looking air-brushed automatons, and see if you can catch someone who isn’t lip-syncing to a pre-recorded track. When that happens, nine times out of ten it ain’t too pretty.

Sometimes I’m glad all my efforts to establish a relationship with other artists as a producer/recording engineer mostly led to nothing, a handful of experiences (both good and bad) notwithstanding. Because for every genuinely talented individual or group of musicians, there’s someone like the character played by the woman in that comedy sketch, whose real life counterpart is probably a really sweet person, but just…shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a piece of musical equipment. Ever.

There’s a pretty wide gulf between “imperfections that make things interesting” and “OH GOD MAKE IT STOP!!!” And maybe that’s a gulf I’m better off not trying to plug up with Stucco and ancient bubblegum. Then again, I don’t have Auto-Tune or anything of the sort, so I wouldn’t be of much use to someone who needed or wanted that stuff anyway.

I’m not dead.

still image from

Two months without a single post. What the shit kind of shit is that shit?

That’s a first for me, and I intend to make it the last time that sort of thing happens. 2012 was an odd year in terms of momentum — specifically the back half. Not a lot of blog activity, I didn’t record nearly as much music as I should have (though I wrote a lot), and I only made one proper progress report video all year long.

That year’s ass is gone now. We didn’t all go kablooey on December 21st, and until doomsday theorists invent something new to frighten people with while providing inspiration for soulless Hollywood tripe, everything is new and shiny again. I pluck a flower from your hair and devour it while you watch in muted horror.

New year, fresh start, yadda-yadda. I plan on getting a lot more accomplished in the months ahead. There’s still the matter of THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE to attend to, along with whatever comes next, and whatever else comes out of the woodwork along the way. If nothing else, I need to make up for 2012 owning the distinction of being only the second year of my life since 1994 to pass without any new albums being released. Maybe it’s healthy to have a Johnny West-free year every so often, but you’re not going to get too many of those if I can help it. I wouldn’t want you getting too comfortable, after all.

Some of the video action I’ve been promising for months should be along fairly soon. In the meantime, here’s a new song I just finished mixing this morning. It’s probably the most full-fledged return to the sound of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN and AN ABSENCE OF SWAY I’ve allowed myself since…well, since those two albums were made. I’ve always said I wasn’t going to look back, and I would only write songs that felt like they crawled out of that particular swamp if it was an organic thing that happened on its own. That’s pretty much what happened here.

I had a riff and a vocal melody kicking around for a while. I liked them, but I didn’t know what to do with them. A few days ago I decided it was time to write some lyrics instead of waiting for them to appear like I normally would. So I just let the random brain-spill flow for about five minutes, embraced the rhyming, thought, “Hey, I kind of like these words,” and there was the song.

The acoustic guitar is the Martin 000-15, which continues to be an inspiring axe. I like the way it sounds double-tracked going into the Pearlman TM-LE. I’m still in love with that microphone on pretty much anything with strings.

I tried adding all kinds of different sonic wallpaper, including a few different electric guitar sounds and a melodica solo during the sort-of-instrumental break. None of it felt right. These days I tend to layer things a lot more than I used to, but this time it was clear the song would be best served by a simpler approach.

So there’s acoustic guitar, piano, bass, drums, tambourine, a bit of banjo, and the return of that old triple-tracked vocal sound. And instead of layers of melodica during that little break, there’s a hummed vocal melody that seemed to better serve the song. And that’s it. The little piano bit at the end was some improvised silliness I liked enough to keep, and it grew into a fun little groove from there, but I held myself back from adding much more to it.

Sometimes you spend a lot of time trying to screw something up only to wind your way back to an approach that’s simpler and more austere. Sometimes a few chords and some rhymes about chicken batter are all you need. And sometimes, every so often, you stub your toe on a mic stand and swear really, really loud.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But if you’re me, all of those things are true.

I’m going to be much more active on this old blog this year (I think), so look forward to that, or run away screaming, or grumble with indifference. Whatever your heart desires, I’m here for you.

Break It Down Lovely