Quirky Instruments

A bit of what I did this morning/afternoon, and an unexpected new addition to the family.

Apologies for the shitty framing/cinematography. Filming oneself while recording is not an easy thing to do. One thing tends to suffer in favour of the other, and in my case it’s the filming that’s going to take a hit to the ‘nads in favour of the music.

The ideal situation is to have someone else manning the camera. That way you don’t end up, say, cutting your own head off with a music stand while recording drums. You can also get some camera movement happening to make things more visually interesting. But for the time being I have no one to film me. So I thought I might do it myself, to give you a bit of an idea of what happens when I’m doing some of the things I do.

In the interest of keeping things from getting too bland, there are only bits and pieces of what I did. I don’t think watching entire vocal takes and drum performances would make for very interesting viewing. So here! Have some bits and pieces!

Thanks to Stephen for linking on Facebook to the sale of that combo organ on Kijiji. I first thought, “That looks cool, but I don’t have the room for it.” Then Johnny Smith and I went out there to Tecumseh, I played the organ on the deck of the nice dude who was selling it, and as soon as I started playing “Alabama Song” by the Doors and got a Farfisa-ish sound out of it I knew I was done for and it was coming home with me.

I’m not sure it really fits in this song, but that organ will definitely be showing up on future albums. You can coax some cool sounds out of it, with a grit and personality no digital organ emulation can tap into.

Also, you can’t really see the stereo ribbon mic in front of the drums, but I assure you it was there. Or maybe I just recorded the drums without microphones at all. Like magic.

Would you like to see my pet giraffe?

After having a few days to absorb everything, my ambivalence faded, and I decided my attempt at sequencing the album worked after all. Then came the fun stuff — album art.

Now that I go to the trouble of giving my albums a proper physical presentation, I tend to find myself in one of two positions. Either I end up scrambling at the last minute for cover art with no idea what I’m going to do, or I have an image in mind early on and it sticks.

This time it was a little different. I thought it was about time to give the old “artist appearing on their album cover” thing a try again. Maybe I could erase the bad taste left in my mouth when previous forays into that sticky territory didn’t quite turn out as I planned. Most of the time I like to see something more interesting than the artist’s face on an album cover (unless the artist in question is PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Kate Bush, Chan Marshall, or…well, you get the idea), but sometimes it just makes sense. I also thought it might be fun to try capturing some “in studio” images, since my recorded work hasn’t received a whole lot of visual documentation over the years.

Bree Gaudette came over on Saturday and took one hundred and forty-three pictures of me. That number was shaved down to fifty-nine keeper images. And then I was left with a problem I’ve never had before — having a whole slew of potential cover images to choose from.

I bounced back and forth between different ideas. I liked that there were a lot of shots of my hands doing things without my face in the frame. I liked the pictures of my reflection caught in the piano’s shine, but they seemed like they would work better for an album that was more piano-centric. For a while I was set on a shot of a microphone in sharp focus, juxtaposed against my out-of-focus face.

In the end, the picture I least expected to take home the prize felt like the most appropriate one to put on the cover. I’m there, but my face isn’t clearly seen. It’s obscured by shadows. Sounds about right.

Then I selected a handful of shots for the booklet, to break up some of the words and make it more interesting. It was kind of a shot in the dark, really. I have way too many favourites to fit in one CD booklet. You could make a hardcover coffee table book out of them. But it’s nice to have some super high quality pictures of me in my element, doing a bit of what I do. There haven’t been any of those since 2003. Not all of the chaos that’s in the studio was captured, but that would have been an insane undertaking anyway, with everything there is to see and all the different angles it could have been captured from.

Maybe some of the shots I didn’t use will show up in different places down the road. For now, here are some of my favourites that didn’t end up making it onto the cover or into the booklet. Huge thanks to Bree for taking all these pictures and making me look not as much like the least photogenic person in the world I am most of the time.

This is a Pearlman TM-LE, which is maybe my new favourite microphone. It’s got some of the sweetest “air” I’ve ever heard without getting the least bit harsh. Just yummy extended goodness. Leave it to Dave to make yet another mic that makes an amazing Swiss Army knife.

Here I am in the midst of a little bit of the chaos, wondering how I’m ever going to record everything I need to while I’m still virile and able.

happy micron

Yes, Alesis Micron. You is my friend.

In focus, out of focus, hocus pocus. This is the shot I almost put on the cover.

This guitar — a Washburn D82WE, which is probably one of the only really high end, non-cheapo models Washburn has made in recent years, so of course it’s discontinued now — tried to commit suicide once. We brought it back and convinced it life was worth living. It’s still got the scars to remind it of wilder times. It’s been in a pretty weird-ass tuning for a number of years, and it’s the guitar “Don’t Be Tense”, “Creepy Crawly Things”, “Organ Smears”, and a lot of other songs I still need to record were written and played on.

The Kay Thin Twin. A lot of the electric guitar on the new album is this guy. Funny how two of my favourite guitars these days are Kays. The K-22 I picked up late last year has pretty much become my go-to acoustic guitar and is all over AN ABSENCE OF SWAY and IF I HAD A QUARTER, while the Thin Twin is fast becoming one of my favourite electric guitars. These are two of the only instruments I’ve ever played that will tolerate a particular D tuning I’m fond of without the intonation getting dodgy, so that’s nice too.

They’re kind of sleepers on the vintage guitar market. They don’t command anywhere near the prices of vintage Martins or Gibsons, though I’d put them right up there in terms of tone, playability, and overall coolness factor. Someday people will catch on and a vintage K-22 like the one I got for a song will probably be going for five grand or so.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell.

There are about half a dozen “piano hands” shots. I like them all. Picking one to put in the booklet came down to which one struck me as having the most appropriate mood to it. But any of them could have made the cut. Those are some pretty long fingers…

And there are many more I like a whole lot. These are just a few of my favourites. Bree takes some snazzy pictures. She also makes you forget the camera is there, which gets rid of all the self-conscious hooey that tends to kill good candid shots. I never enjoyed family picture time at Olan Mills when I was younger. It was fake smiles all around.

Emotionally stunted hypocrites really do pull off that smarmy fake smile thing with aplomb, though, don’t they? Gotta give ’em credit for that.

Now that I know you’re busy drooling over my rugged good looks (or plucking out your eyes to make the hurting stop), I should pause to tell you I’m playing a show at Taloola on Saturday, August 8th, backing Adam up. Music starts at 8:00 pm and ends by 9:00. An early show! In a place with no PA system! No hearing loss! Praise Señor Jesus, and the girl who sold me lemonade last summer.

The Field Assembly lineup for this show will be just Adam, Stephen Hargreaves, and myself. I get to play a Wurlitzer electric piano in a live setting and drink tea that smells pretty. Should be fun.

Papa’s got a brand new synth.

the alesis micron.

I got me a new toy — an Alesis Micron, little brother (or sister) to the Alesis Ion.

Thanks again to Eric for letting me borrow his Ion for a few days last month. Playing around with that awesome thing was what inspired me to get the Micron. It’s pretty cheap and small, which is a strong selling point for me, because I need to conserve all the space I can around here, and because spending money is about as much fun as…well…spending money. But this thing packs a lot of sound and tweakability into a small package.

Needless to say, if it wasn’t already the case, it’s now a pretty safe bet that there will be a lot of synth and general sonic silliness on the next album. I don’t know what it is, but something about new synth sounds always inspires a torrent of new songs to come pouring out of me in short order. It happened in the past with the likes of GROWING SIDEWAYS and WHO YOU ARE NOW, and now I expect it’ll probably happen again. I wish I had this thing a few weeks ago for the show at the FM Lounge. Could have made some pretty wild sounds when Max and I went to hell at the end of “Capricorn Cloves”.

I guess there’s always the next show, which will probably take place in 2011.

Also got me a ridiculously cheap no-name banjo from the 1920s. The tuners are a little weird, but the intonation doesn’t seem to be all that wonky, and the thing sounds better than it has any right to given its price and no-name pedigree. What is it about funky old instruments that makes them funky? Maybe it has something to do with old wood. I’d be hard-pressed to find a new acoustic guitar that really speaks to me now, even in the several-thousand-dollar price range, and yet I can find a guitar that’s two or three times my age at a fraction of the price, and it sounds and feels so much better and more inspiring it’s hilarious.

Old wood: it’s not just getting a second lease on life thanks to the likes of Viagra anymore.

Also, it’s been as muggy as a cow’s rectum outside. All I can say at a time like this is, “Thank God for central air.” Or maybe I should thank Dionne Warwick. After all, she taught me what friends are for.

Huey Lewis with a gun.

I have been rehearsing a bit with a band. That’s right…a band.

I haven’t played in such a setting since back when I couldn’t grow much of any facial hair, so that gives you some idea of how long it’s been. The difference this time is that I do have some facial hair, and more importantly I’m not the front person. Tara Watts is. Hooray! Me not be in spotlight!

It’s fun playing with her, and her brother Brendan (on bass), and Chad Howson (he of ASK fame, on drums). It just feels comfortable, all of us together. They’re great people, so it would be fun hanging out even if we didn’t connect musically, but I think we play well off of one another. Anytime you can break into a bit of “Miss You” by the Stones completely randomly between songs just for fun, I think that’s a good sign.

It’s a bit of a switch for me, being the “lead” player and actually playing solos and fiddly bits when most of the time I prefer to kind of fade into the background like a colourful character actor with a stylish hat. But I think I can hack it. Or hock it. Whichever comes first.

Tara’s big CD release show is coming up on Thursday at The Room. Details are on the poster up there. Should be fun. I’m kind of all over that album, playing either keys or six-string banjo on nine of its eleven songs, and singing a bit of third part harmony on one of them.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy macaroni!” And it is right to give the Cosmic Noodle Stuff thanks and praise.

But what I really mean to say is thanks to Tara for letting me be a part of her album. I enjoyed playing on it. A few of my piano parts are pretty low in the mix, and one of them was manipulated after the fact to sound something like a harpsichord (not my choice), but I assure you I’m there, swaying in the breeze like an affluent tree. I think I’m pretty happy with most of what I played, even if some of my ideas are a bit more refined now that I’m rehearsing the songs and not just winging it blindly without having heard half of them before, which was basically what happened at the recording stage. Who knew I could do the session musician thing and wing it and not have the whole thing end in tears? My favourite contribution to the album might be the banjo part I came up with for “Camels in Canada”.

Also, tenor banjos are neat little things. Especially this one.

banjo2

That’s a 1922 Gibson TB. It must have found the banjo equivalent of the fountain of youth, because it doesn’t look even close to eighty-seven.

I wasn’t in any hurry to get any sort of “proper” banjo. I think the six-string does a good job of covering most of my banjo bases, even if I should take it in for a setup one of these days to fix the occasionally dodgy intonation. But Guelph is a dangerous place. Whenever I pick up an instrument and immediately start playing things I’ve never played before, I know there’s something worth pursuing there. An instrument that inspires you within seconds to start forming new song ideas is something special. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also maybe the most comfortable banjo neck I’ve ever played. I’m sure it’ll work its way onto the next album that’s still in-progress.

Old stringed instruments in general are inspiring things. Take this one, for example.

archtop

It’s a very cheap old archtop with copper back and sides. And yet it’s got a funky voice to it that no other guitar I’ve found — certainly not any new guitar — can come close to matching. Any guitar that will tolerate weird-ass tunings and still intonate properly is a friend of mine. It also sounds pretty cool with a slide, as “Centipede Marriage Proposal” on AN ABSENCE OF SWAY will attest to. Pity I didn’t take a better picture of it, but what can you do in these troubled times?

How quickly can you oscillate?

I’m all over the place in the new issue of WAMM. It’s madness, I tell you. Who knew I was “famously tongue-in-cheek?” Who knew I was famous? Who knew I had cheeks? Who knew these subliminal messages I’ve been implanting in my songs would take effect someday?

But seriously, is that a cool cover with Tara on it or what? And don’t say, “Or what,” because if you do I’ll hunt you down and force-feed you spicy pickles.

I think it’s pretty neat that the Arp Omni-2 got a mention in an article that takes a look at how electronic elements have been seeping more into local music over the last little while, in some pretty unexpected places. This got me all wistful, and my wife began to flash before my eyes. You know…my imaginary wife. She sure knows how to slow-dance in the dark.

The Arp Omni-2 came into my life back in 1997. My on/off/invisible piano teacher (“Dust in the Wind”, as we so fondly refer to him around here) was selling it, and I thought it might be kind of cool to have. At the time my equipment consisted of the Clavinova that served as my go-to digital piano for ages (and it’s still here today, with plenty of life left in it, even if the real piano has relieved it of some of its duties), a cheap Sony tape recorder, and a stopwatch. That was the entirety of my “studio”.

I didn’t know a thing about analog synthesizers. And though I managed to coax some interesting sounds out of the thing, after a while it seemed pretty limited and not very tweakable. I was much more interested in digital synths that did most of the work for me. Before long the Arp’s place on top of the Clavinova had been taken by a Yamaha W-5. Aside from a few brief appearances here and there (the title track on SINGIN’ THE OESOPHAGUS TO SLEEP, “Light in the Terrace” on LIVE AT THE NAKED GIRAFFE THEATER, and “Rippin” on YOU’RE A NATION, all from 1999), it served as a glorified shelf for almost a decade, often submerged beneath backup CDs and dust, and rarely was there electricity running through it for any length of time.

A few years back I decided on a whim to dust the thing off. To my amazement I found it was capable of making a lot more sounds than I thought it was. Turns out I just needed to know how to better manipulate the VCF, LFO, attack, release, decay, and other such slide-y things. After years of exclusively working with digital synths, I also came to realize the Arp was capable of a certain warmth you just don’t get from digital synthesis.

Since then I haven’t made nearly as much use of the thing as it deserves, but it does have a bit of a spotlight moment on the second half of “The Ass, Enchanted with the Sound” on the newest album, and there’s a non-album track that showed up on Myspace back in the summer called “An Avalanche in Hell” that’s nearly all Arp Omni-2 all the way through. I guess I just don’t want to overuse it.

When it fits, even in a supplemental role, it imparts something no digital synth can. I’m not sure how to describe what that is exactly. It’s got a certain funkiness to it. The bass section has a wonderfully lo-fi thing going on too, and I need to find more ways to incorporate it into songs. One of the keys no longer works, I’m sure the guts could use some servicing, and there’s a dissonant drone that will develop sometimes depending on what keys are played (you can hear it happen near the end of “The Ass…” right around where the synth in the right stereo channel drops out), but on the whole it’s still in good working condition. The one note that isn’t available to me anymore is easy enough to work around, and I kind of like that drone popping up occasionally at unexpected moments.

Now I just need to get a Prophet-5, a Juno-60, and a Jupiter-8, and I’ll be set. Not that I have any room for more gear around here.

Still, between the Arp Omni-2, the Korg Triton LE, and the Yamaha w-5 (the last two of which haven’t been getting much love lately), it might be an idea to get back into making synth-based music at some point. I’m not sure it would come out sounding much like GROWING SIDEWAYS did, since at this point I’d have a hard time not throwing in other, more organic sounds, but it could be fun to spice things up a bit. Maybe it would be an idea to not limit things sonically to one synth per album. I mean, NUDGE YOU ALIVE was a W-5 affair, GROWING SIDEWAYS and WHO YOU ARE NOW were completely Triton-centric, and the Omni-2 just pops up for brief cameo appearances here and there on albums that are not very synthy at all. Maybe it’s about time they all learned to play together.

I didn’t know this, but apparently sometime in the 1970s Arp made what they called a “Matrix Edition” of the Omni-2. Only fifty were ever made, so they’re pretty rare. I think they look nifty.

the "matrix" version

On a different subject: it might seem like I joke a lot about the studio being dusty and chaotic. But I assure you the dust ain’t no joke. I actually didn’t realize just how serious it was until people started drawing faces and things on my drum shells. Dusting needed to be done. It was long overdue. But before that happened, I thought I should preserve the dust drawings for future generations to enjoy. I’m not sure who drew what here. Katie might have drawn one of the faces. Or maybe it was Nik. Or Anna. Or Kiwi.

dusty-drums-1

dusty-drums-2

I left my own little message mere moments before recirculating the dust and wiping it out.

dusty-drums-3

The next album is starting to come into focus a bit more. I guess you could look at it as the third entry in a loose trilogy. Not that there’s anything thematic connecting the albums or even running through them individually, but I think there’s a certain aesthetic that’s been developing over the past little while, beginning with CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. It seems to broaden in scope and mutate a bit with each successive album, but I think after this one it might be time to do something different altogether. Then again, what I plan on doing and what ends up happening are often two different things, so we’ll see what transpires.

There are a lot of different ideas in the works, some of them longer-term projects than others. The list of potential albums I outlined in my first-ever post here has grown and changed quite a bit over the past twelve months. The main thing is I’ve got my focus back after the “lost year” that was 2007 and the subsequent fallout that threw everything off-balance for a while. It’s nice to be accomplishing things at a somewhat reasonable pace again. Almost like old times.

Glenn Frey sure likes singing the words “sexy girl” a lot, doesn’t he?

My saw finally arrived. It also just about crippled my hand.

In order to get sound out of the thing you have to hold the handle between your legs and bend the saw with one hand into an S curve. It seems like a lot of people can do that without any trouble. It also seems like my hands weren’t made to contort in such a way. After messing around with trying to play it for about twenty minutes, I put the saw away, turned my left hand a bit to the side, and felt searing pain shoot through it — the kind that makes you say dirty words because no other response seems adequate. I imagine it’s what a repetitive strain injury feels like. Not quite at the level of carpal tunnel, but still pretty unpleasant. Thankfully the pain that came with flexion and extension gradually faded, and by the next day my hand seemed to be back to normal.

Needless to say, it doesn’t look like there will be the sound of a musical saw on my next album after all, unless someone other than myself is playing it. I kind of need my hands to do what I do. So I won’t be messing around with that again. Our love — mine and the saw’s — will have to remain unrequited.

You’re getting teary-eyed reading this, I know. Fret not, because if I can get the theremin I was given whipped back into working shape that might do a good job of providing the high, ethereal sounds I was expecting to get out of the saw.

Hanging out with Adam Peltier on his show last week at CJAM was a lot of fun. In addition to engaging in silly banter and giving not-entirely-coherent answers to questions I was asked, I brought along a CD case full of…well…can you guess what I put inside? Can you? CDs! How daring of me.

We played quite a bit of music from my stash: some Duke Ellington, Mingus, Tim Buckley, Oumou Sangare, Talk Talk, Thelonious Monk, Stina Nordenstam, The Band, and some really weird Paul McCartney stuff that was probably recorded while he was high out of his mind on some really good pot, among other things. Thanks again to Adam for the invite, and for playing my noise on the radio.

Speaking of noise, it’s looking like I might not be able to get another new album out there before the end of the year after all. I might get it close to the finish line, but I’d rather not rush it. So it probably won’t appear until the New Year. You can probably expect it to show up sometime in January. Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait.

Now, remember when I was sending CDs to every record label there ever was? Sure you do. We were like brothers then, eating apple slices from each other’s palms and sharing our erotic dreams during drunken reveries. Back then I apparently sent a few CDs to this little indie label called Boompa. As with every other label I ever sent anything to, I never heard anything back.

The other day I thought I would type one of my CD titles into Google just for fun. I couldn’t believe what I found. Someone actually did listen to what I sent them, and they even liked it. Imagine that. It almost makes all the bullshit and frustration endured during that time seem like it was worthwhile. Almost. I tried emailing the guy to tell him how much I appreciated knowing that he listened (even if I only found out a few years after the fact through sheer chance) and to offer to send some newer music his way, but the email address provided on his blog no longer seems to exist.

So if you ever somehow stumble across this here thing where I write stuff, thanks Dale. You made a profane, cynical guy slightly less cynical but no less profane. And that’s for the best, wouldn’t you say?

If I ever put a press pack together for any reason (not that I ever will), the quote that ends his review of the music I sent him will be in there, along with some of the other memorable things people have said about me over the years.

Bless me father, for I have shins.

THE CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN WITH A TRIANGLE is now available at Sanctuary Coffee Lounge. Thanks to Renée and Travis for making that happen.

If there’s anyone left out there who still wants the thing, you can get it there now. And even if my music makes you break out in hives, you should pop over there on the corner of College and Campbell just to buy some great coffee and watch Dr. Phil on the large TV screen. That man is always there for you when you need him.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to be able to get this new album I’m working on finished and out there before the year’s end, but I’m giving it the old college try, even though I never went to college.

There’s about half an hour of music in finished form so far that’s definite CD material. So there’s enough right now for an EP. But I’m not really feeling the shorter format at the moment. There are also a lot of songs in various stages of completion, and some that are finished but won’t be making the cut because they don’t quite feel right.

The other album I planned on tackling at the same time is still sitting on the back burner while this one starts to take shape. In some ways it feels like a logical progression from CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. In other ways it feels like a pretty different beast to me.

I don’t think there are going to be as many have-a-brief-coughing-fit-and-you’ll-miss-them tiny songs as there were last time, but I’m sure there will be some that insinuate themselves. Yesterday I improvised and recorded something that sounds like a warped blues song run through a cheese grater. It’s forty-four seconds long.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for cover art once this album is finished, but I hope to figure that out at some point.

On a different note, I randomly stumbled across this site called CLLCT a while back, forgot about it, remembered, forgot again, remembered again, and now I’m thinking it might be fun to put some music up there, maybe.

I like how no one pays for anything and the emphasis is on building a community and sharing all different kinds of music with anyone who might care to hear it. I still prefer a physical album (CD, vinyl, cassette, Flintstones Vitamin sound capsule, or what have you) to MP3s, but I could always just offer to send people CDs in the mail over there if they wanted them. Something to think about.

Oh yeah — almost forgot. I ordered a saw. Not for decapitating people, but for musical purposes. The thought of playing a musical saw never even occurred to me until yesterday, when reading up about the theremin led to reading up about the saw and I learned they’re pretty cheap. They also have an eerie and unique sound to them that isn’t quite like anything else, and I think it would be a fun thing to be able to play around with.

So don’t be too surprised if some otherworldly singing saw sounds crop up in a few places on the next album.

Sierra hotel India tango.

An excerpt of the interview Adam did with me a few weeks back (available in its entirety right over HERE) is in this month’s issue of WAMM in transcribed form, along with a picture of me looking intense and jazzy. Thanks to Stephen and Adam. I’m not so sure about all that “genius” talk, though. I think the appropriate word is “gesundheit-ish”.

Oh, and look — it’s a hammered dulcimer!

I picked this thing up in Guelph on Friday. Every time we go to Folkway I end up leaving with something completely different from what I plan to get. I never thought I would have any interest in a dulcimer of all things, but Johnny Smith pointed it out to me when I was staggering around without much direction, I started playing the thing, and the rest speaks for itself. Or it would speak for itself, if it was blessed with the gift of speech. Instead it just grunts.

I doubt I’ll ever come close to mastering the instrument in any conventional way (check out this lady — how do you even do that?), but I can at least get some interesting sounds out of it, and it’s a fun tool to add to the belt. The belt of tools, I mean. It’s even somewhat portable, which doesn’t seem possible given the design of the thing. In a hard shell case it somehow isn’t much larger or heavier than a vintage bass.

I think it’s safe to say the MISFITS compilation thing will be release-ready within the next week or two, once the packaging side of things is taken care of. So I should be able to start spreading it around by the second week of this month. Hopefully. I put a few of the tracks up on Spyspace just for something to do.

As for the plan to get another two albums of new material out there by the year’s end, well…that might have been a little optimistic. But I’m going to try to get at least one of them finished before bells start jingling and undead choirs start singing.

I has a harmonica.

My trusty old D harmonica, which is coming up on its tenth birthday, has sadly been missing in action since moving into this house. I probably would have used it a bit on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN if I’d been able to locate it. It wasn’t to be.

However, I now have a new, altogether different harmonica, and this is by far the coolest-looking harp I’ve ever seen. Huge thanks to Michael for sending it to me. Check out the detail of the designs on the top and bottom — you can click on the pictures to enlarge them for “super sexy close-up vision”.

The most important thing is now, at long last, I can look all scary and intimidating again with my harmonica holder slung just so.

Haven’t been accomplishing too much lately thanks to the return of the unintended vampire sleep schedule, but there’s nothing like the love of a good harmonica to get you back on track. I have at least been making a lot of copies of that MISFITS collection so there will be enough of them to go around by the time I get the inserts and booklet made and pick up the appropriate chubby CD cases.

Chrissie Hynde gave me a good song idea in one of my dreams the other night. Memphis Minnie is going back to Texas, with Kansas Joe McCoy in tow. Fingers keep on finging. Baby, please don’t go down to New Orleans. Van Morrison wants you to stay. And so forth.

Making love to a chain link fence…but never the same way twice.

It’s a bit of a switch working with piano as an initial musical building block. I used to do a lot of that, but it’s been a while.

I kind of fell into a pattern of using slight variations on a pretty specific electric guitar sound on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. It seemed to play nicely off of banjo/guitar/other things with strings, but I’m not sure it meshes as well with a real acoustic piano (though I think it worked on “Pretty Cynical” where it was a digital piano instead of the real deal). It’s probably better to resist the temptation to fall into comfortable habits anyway so things stay sonically interesting and at least somewhat unpredictable.

The triple-tracked vocal approach apparently isn’t going to be reverting to single/naked lead vocals anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean fun can’t be had with what surrounds the voice. I just find it interesting how certain things that work well in one setting will sound out of place when the glue of the song is a different instrument, even if the song itself isn’t that much different stylistically from what it might have been if it was led by banjo or an acoustic guitar.

So, while I’m still not much of a producer and don’t spend much time thinking about what any given album should sound like, there will probably be a bit of a different ethos at work on the in-progress piano-heavy CD. The new song that’s up on Spyspace right now is a good case in point, and maybe it offers a bit of an idea of what to expect from the album. The brushed drums are still there, but I think the drumming sounds a little meatier and more confident. The twangy Teisco is there too, but only in the places where it could fit without too much resistance.

Funny how for a song that’s still pretty stripped-down it was a lot more challenging to mix than most of the songs on the last album, what with different things coming in at different times and the volume of certain tracks needing to be altered at key moments. In general it seems a bit jazzier to me, at least to the extent that I’m capable of being jazzy, though I resisted the urge to go crazy during the instrumental outro and left a lot of space there.

Dig the bugle section during the “bridge”, if you can call it that. I don’t think I’m ever going to figure out how to form anything approaching a decent embouchure, but that doesn’t mean I can’t torture some noise out of the horn anyway, even if the results sound something like a small drunken elephant stampede. I recorded piano for a few different songs yesterday, and “Capricorn Cloves” (don’t ask me what the title means — I have no idea) was the one that decided it wanted to be fleshed out. I messed around with the others a bit, recording some rough vocals, but they still need work. And there are still so many songs I need to record in general, I fear I may never get completely caught up. Now it’s moved past the intimidation stage, though, and become kind of a fun problem to have.

Now, here’s something fun. Check out #166 on the chart, sandwiched between Be Your Own Pet and Bob Wiseman. Not bad for a guy with an imaginary/nonexistent record label and no serious distribution, who’s only ever really garnered airplay on one of the many radio stations whose charts were used to come up with the top two hundred for September. For my next trick, I will make a music video for “Blue Cheese Necklace” in which David Spade is beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat in slow-motion, and MuchMusic will play it once before everyone becomes violently ill and several hearts are irreparably shattered.