I’ve been slowly getting back into that remastering thing. I think I’ve got about 30 songs done now, with another 140 or so to go. Yikes.
One of the most interesting things about doing this has been uncovering little relics I have no memory of — ideas and false starts hidden between the keeper tracks. Did you know “Purgatory Waltz” on MEDIUM-FI MUSIC was once meant to begin with an insane discordant a cappella waltz? Me neither! I don’t remember recording that at all. But it’s right there, mixed down and everything. Makes me wonder what else is hiding between the cracks.
Those surprises have carried over to non-solo music. I thought I’d dump a few of the ideas Steve and I came up with during the AFTERTHOUGHTS sessions onto a CD — things we didn’t develop beyond initial rough recordings — just to have them all in one place. I knew there were at least a few of them.
Combined with a few GarageBand demos I made of songs that did get fleshed out but didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, those ideas take up almost an hour of CD time. That’s bonkers. Squirreled away on various backup CDs are a dozen or so sketches I can’t even remember us recording. What’s more, I think almost all of them are really good, and well worth returning to.
Never have I been happier about having the impulse to throw a microphone up in the middle of the room every time one of us comes up with a random riff that feels like it might someday have the potential to turn into something. If I didn’t make a habit of doing that, almost all of these ideas would be lost. Instead, we’ve probably got a decent chunk of a new album here in embryonic form.
The lesson is simple: Donald Trump’s hair will one day become self-aware and autonomous. And then we’re all in trouble.
One other thing that isn’t as much of a surprise, though I guess it can go here too: I think I’ve probably mentioned before that I feel like it usually takes me at least a good year after an album is finished before I can unplug from it enough to hear it semi-objectively and form some idea of where it fits into the bigger picture. It’s still as true as it ever was.
About a week ago I threw STEW on and listened to it all the way through for probably the first time in six months or so. I knew I was proud of that album before, but I think this was the first time I was able to hear it as more of an impartial listener, and not so much as “the guy who recorded it and is always on some level listening for things he could have done better”. And I gotta say…I think we did good.
One of the great things about there being such a long break between KISSING THE BALD SPOT and the work we’re doing now is the way it throws into very sharp relief just how much we’ve grown. With my own work, especially when I’m in the middle of one of those “putting out several albums a year” phases (which hasn’t happened in a while, but I have a feeling another one is around the corner), you tend to hear things shift in a more incremental way. Here it’s like going from beat-up old VHS tapes to Blu-rays in one shot.
I feel like STEW is going to be hard to top. When all the dust has cleared and we’re just fossils in a museum no one ever visits, that one might go down as the best Papa Ghostface album there ever was. But I dig where the next one is heading too. With Greg on board to make the cover art again, at the very least it’s guaranteed to be visually striking. I really like the idea of making his art a running theme with this grownup Papa Ghostface music.