My only "properly" finished, commercial-ready CD that summed up several years' worth of sonic and musical experimentation.
- The Players
- The Dual Recto
- Stepping Up to the Mic
- Downloads and Song Notes
For a while there it was what saved my life a few times. Little else gave me focus, little else gave me meaning in that year spanning the summers of 1999 and 2000. In the year when relationships were strained or broken, I worked on it whenever I could and often that meant doing guitar, bass, keyboard and other overdubs in the wee hours after midnight, some nights until even past the crack of dawn. Hog Heaven Studio got a good workout during that period; the tiny bedroom sized box of a studio space was my universe for a time where I had the walls lined with instruments and accessories and where I almost desperately applied myself to my work, often not even having anything but tenacity to work with. But I mustn't ignore that, at times, I was more of a conduit allowing some musical current to pass through me.
In the late summer of 1999, I string of recorded improvisational tracks and their overdubs, or even whole songs in some quick order and somehow began to trust they were okay as they were. Upon sharing some of those early cuts for Mike Keneally, he wished me well, and that I might "keep receiving" the music. Thus came a title which focused my work to come for about the next year. Receiving. The album is just short of 70 minutes which I do realize is quite pretentious for a nobody. But I like listening to albums as whole pieces and the tour they lead the listener on. At that time, I was only beginning to hear about the mp3 format and its influence was far from being felt, in terms of how people would listen to individual songs instead of whole albums. (I was quite under the influence of Mike Keneally then, who made CDs that were so full of content that the pressing plants could barely assure him non-defective disks.) I just knew my little vignettes of sound were dropping out of me at a new and delightful pace for some reason, and that they were sharing a theme of melancholy, wonder, angst and beauty all at once.
Some were delivered almost whole in a few takes: the opening title track was about one hours' work to record from improvisation and Tired was recorded in about a day, on the following night! Others like Zehdihm's Flight took nearly the full year to get in their final form, involving shifting players and wholly separate recordings of the three main sections. Somewhere in the middle ground lie the tracks like New Ex Girlfriend and Suburban Silhouette, which took about a week each. In some odd way there is a balance of the spontaneous and the polished work; the balance of the stuff that has a more or less precise and considered choice of notes to achieve a desired aim, and those pieces where I know there are some "bad" notes that really had to be left in to sonically illustrate the risk involved in this kind of music.
In late 2000, Richard Meltzer, the salty veteran of rock music criticism did a favorable review of MP3.com tracks that featured on Receiving. He doesn't like anything that comes out of the usual music mills, so for what his opinion is worth, this is quite something to say, even that he bothered to spill the ink. He dubbed me the best purveyor of musique noir in San Diego. Dunno about that but I like the term and I've adopted it willingly. I don't know that my music actually suggests film noir (I had never really seen the stuff by then) but there is a moody and atmospheric, psychologically unbalanced edge to it. There is risk in the note choice; there is some steep contrast in mood and texture. And furthermore, there really is no resolution according to traditional musical convention of harmony. Frankly, it is because I never really exposed myself to learning the stuff either from love of the blues or detailed study of harmony. I don't think there is one actual dominant-tonic resolution on the whole thing. Just as well because my life at that time knew nothing of stability and comfort, at least not emotionally and spiritually. So the chords go wandering with no sense of key structure, suspensions and dissonance rule, and in a few cases, the climax of certain tracks is a collision into atonal chaos.
Similarly, certain solos feel like they are going off the rails, and in the case of Todd Larowe's playing, they come back to their senses fluidly. I won't kid you; a lot of stuff is riddled with genuine mistakes. Sometimes they were simply left there in good trust, other times they were subject to fixing if possible, but in a case like Todd's lead over Pearls Before the Swine, an extra seven takes did nothing to improve on his first take as he was just feeling out the unfamiliar chords and their totally non-conventional progression, so we went back to the first take and all its little funny notes. I've since decided those notes tell the stories of these pieces better than a more calculated approach.
Maybe Richard Meltzer gave my music a nod because it so clearly is an honest attempt at making honest music. My friend Mike Thaxton offered me the criteria he used to establish whether he liked music or not: does it sound and feel like it needed to be made? Whatever the case, for me, it needed to be made or I would have beenunmade. At the time, I was working exclusively as an audio tech assistant, keeping totally unconventional hours. There was in-town work, and other times when I was on short jaunts to San Francisco or Tucson or Los Angeles. I worked around a lot of different musicians in various capacities—most of the time it was working on the main audio system at a show, but at various times I rented my drums, did stage managing, guitar and keyboard cartage and stagehanding, etc. All my time on stages got me into conversations with people about what I was doing (because every tech and assistant out there is really a wannabe with their own project too, every now and then a Billy Howerdel breaks through). Hence the roster of players who figure into Receiving's credits:
Most notably for me at the time, Marc Ziegenhagen, who then was playing in Mike Keneally's band Beer For Dolphins. In fact, the Rhodes and Minimoog keyboards he used on Zehdihm's Flight are on MK's Dancing CD because both were recorded in the same week, and my payment to him was to borrow, cart or loan or otherwise gather the keyboards he needed to do the recording in San Diego (he's from Minneapolis). Ziegenhagen actually played parts that were sonically and aesthetically more satisfying than the guy he replaced on that track: Mike Keneally. That was a major thing for me then of course, since MK was like the knowable face of god then for me. But really, I didn't like what he played, and so I let it go in favor of his sideman's playing. Marc was exceptionally cool to work with. He also appears on (of all things!) my song The End of the Road For Missy The Cow from a couple years earlier.
Todd Larowe was sort of the Hog Heaven Studio house guitarist for that year as we worked on a lot in 1999, including Receiving and my other goofy songs from ReCyclED, stuff for a certain Girl Singer, and other bits. We met at Sea World as he was in the tech services department that I had to interface with when we did summer music series for a few years in a row. Todd had a great ear for picking up the almost random nature of my music, and had the dexterity to play more nuanced stuff. Still, he blew a few notes too, but he could usually find a way to bring it back in, and that suited my style. Any guitar playing on this CD that isn't mine is his. Some of the electric sitar is his too, as is a few touches of percussion.
Mike Bedard is a friend from high school, who for a while there used to come by to jam and shoot the shit. He was working as a professional drummer by this time and he always played this role for me that somehow gave me something new to work toward. A couple tracks here are from a single improvised recording of he and I (I'm on bass). He has this musical intuition and masterful delivery that delighted me, often leading me and being ready to follow in the off chance I ever had a good idea. He later came by and totally saved my ass on the third recording of Zehdihm's Flight, the track that never seemed to happen right until magically, Mike and Marc and Todd all put in their parts---scattered by weeks and even months---and brought out the most distilled and aggressive version of that track. Mike's ability as a live drummer is enhanced by his studio experience. I find he can acoustically create some neat sonic textures one associates with the heavily processed audio in electronic music. For my purposes though, he was a delight to jam with and a lifesaver when my drumming was a dead end.
Dawne Forderer and Rebecca Vaughan (Frazee now) were friends from their band Loaf, with whom I worked as a live audio guy. I was recording some Loaf material at the same time as Receiving, and so one day I asked them to see about some vocals for the song Tired. They obliged, and in just a few minutes, they were done. (You can hear a good Loaf song featuring them, me on percussion and some guitar, and the most developed version of my studio here.) Some people think that the whiny girlfriend character on New Ex Girlfriend is one of the girls. Not so...
Aside from these players who offered some uplifting parts, it is my playing and vocals unless you count the jokingly credited phone call from my usual employer at the time, Mitch Grant. There were some others who had a hand in earlier tracks or some editing, like the aforementioned Mike Keneally, guitarists Dave Stark and Brandon Arnieri, and Mike Thaxton who had the gall to chop up Pimps and to make it even weirder than it was originally! I found at the end of things that I played all the bass parts except for Todd playing a bass part identical to his guitar part on The Frank Briggs Syndrome (the one with Mitch on it).
All of Receiving was recorded and mostly edited on my Roland VS-880, an 8 track digital recorder that afforded me enough space to be more elaborate in my arrangements than a 4 track, and less so than a 16 or 24 track. It was something that made me think out the more complex arrangements but also to ditch stuff that didn't need to be there. This CD is filled with tracks that go from rather straightforward band-in-a-studio type arrangements and track counts to arrangements with doubled drums, doubled bass guitar, various synths, and so on—the effect being that you might expect a lot more tracks of "tape" being involved. By the time of Receiving though, I had already been doing two years' of recording on the 880 and had some practical methods for combining, bouncing, comping, and other digital manipulation so I could mix with 8 tracks only. While my outboard components changed a lot during the Hog Heaven Studio era, the 880 was the center of things until afterReceiving was finished. Tracks like Zehdihm's Flight got digitally edited together in whole submixed sections but each section was fairly involved as its own recording, or at least some of the earlier versions pushed the envelope, even if the final mixes were a bit simpler.
Some tracks began as drum improvs that were cut and looped into the basis for a track. Others, like Purque The Insidious Goat Hustler, and the opening of Zehdihm's Flight, were really just a bunch of free improv and random tracks that got cut and shaped into form, with me constantly moving back and forth between instruments as new ideas flowed, often within a single session. Purque is a joke title based on the fact that the original storage media were marked with "Perc-y" —that there were some percussion tracks that didn't have a name, and they sort of sat there till one day they were paired up with equally odd keyboard parts. Tracks like Pearls Before the Swine or Pimps were led, form-wise by improvising on keyboards and then filling in other parts with subsequent digital editing. The title track was an improvised drum performance that was made more interesting by the business of simultaneously playing drum kit and operating a mixer with my left hand, feeding different drum channels into the echo effect. That performance was improvised in one shot, unedited, just as you hear it, effects and all. The guitars came moments later, and then I mixed it that night!
I had just bought my first tube amp in August of 1999, and I have to admit that that had a lot to do with the creative streak. I had only recorded a couple amps before in Hog Heaven, but this one got my juices flowing. All the guitar sounds here but for a few on New Ex Girlfriend came through the Mesa Dual Rectifier. Such was its influence! I really got off on how it was able to rumble the guitar in my hand, and the feel and sensitivity of it was delightful. Part of the joy of the performance on 8th Grade Report Card and Endless Cycle came from the pure sound of the guitar through that amp, set on the edge of feedback. I only used two of my own guitars, but Todd used a couple more of his, and I think I borrowed a couple, including the electric sitar. At the same time as the amp, I got a new guitar, a Carvin with a Floyd Rose vibrato, and a wild array of pickup switching options that made it handy in the studio. The combination of that guitar and the amp did a lot to usher in the recordings here—the first two cuts feature these exclusively, and then eventually I get around to using my Strat. Hah.
The CD is instrumental except for five songs. I typically didn't mind giving my voice to lyrics that were not too revelatory. Much of the stuff preceding Receiving tended toward humor and sarcasm. But this was different. For reasons probably more technical than artistic, I somehow masked my voice with some effect or another here, in most cases. Not being a born singer, nor being one who particularly wanted to occupy that role, the songs onReceiving typically popped out in pretty much their final form, and typically late in the process. I suspect by that time, they had to be given voice.
Tired came first and its lyrics sprung out of me one "night" almost in one lump with the music happening the following day (remember, I went to bed at about 5-6 am then). I vaguely remember taking some influence from Kevin Gilbert's song Fun (from Shaming of the True), something in the telephone distorted voice and relentless groove with a kind of dark theme. I remember doing a mix of a different performance of the vocal, but on the whole, this one went down pretty much in one shot.
In the case of New Ex Girlfriend, that is indeed me doing the vocals through the VS-880's voice transformer. That was pretty much a quick run down of some of the things I'd been hearing from my not-quite-girlfriends of the few years prior to that, so I'm sure it didn't take too many takes, and not much of it is an embellishment on reality as I knew it then.
Joytown is an apology for Kevin Gilbert, the songwriter who took me by storm in the fall of '99 and whose spirit graced me during the entire time I worked on this CD. The lyrics evoke a song of his, Joytown, which imagines all sorts of odd pairs together which might coexist in a perfect world. My song expands on that by including that in such a world, an artistic genius like him might never be taken advantage of like he was by Sheryl Crow.
The next song, Crazy Boy, is more like a couple pages torn out of a journal of mine from that era, painfully aware of some self destructive behavior, and the do-or-die nature of some of the decisions I had to make. It is cast like an argument between these two natures.
The final song, the one that reveals a voice nearly free of any technological gizmodification (except for the vocoder chorus) is Suburban Silhouette. I had just read James Howard Kunstler's book The Geography of Nowhere just a year or so before, and it resonated with me in a big way, and ultimately proved to be the first dose of consciousness that led me to where I am now. This song came together in a very quick way, all from nothing to complete in about one week. The lyrics too were never so much as sketched before I started working on this recording. It was like a ripe fruit on the branch and was a great illustration of the receiving concept.
I finished the music when Suburban Silhouette was completed in mid-August 2000. I was getting burned out on the solo recording method and had my interests turning toward working in a band context for the first time in years. I had the various mixes on my VS-880 where I assembled various running orders and spent a month settling on that. I took it in to DLI Studio (Dan De La Isla, Natasha's Ghost, et al.) to be mastered in mid-September, using the 880 to play the mixes into the studio's ProTools rig in real time. By that time, I had settled on levels and track spacing (or segues) and such, so I just had alternating tracks on two stereo pairs and got half my mastering done that way. The rest was the usual stuff—compression, EQ, spatial fixes. It took a few CDs to get it dialed in, but I signed off on it a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, the art was a different kettle of fish. That was the anti-receiving. That held up the progress for a whole other year beyond the year spent recording it. I don't even know all the twists and turns now, but suffice it to say, there was a guy who was doing a somewhat admirable job in the end of 1999, using images of radio telescopes. I didn't know they were called by that name, so I referred to them as satellite dishes. What I really wanted was a vast and panoramic shot of the Very Large Array in New Mexico, but I didn't know the name of the complex and I didn't even know about how many of the telescopes there were. (I was influenced by the Dire Straits cover of On the Night, but upon researching this right now, I rather like Bon Jovi's album cover onBounce. Bastard!) This was in the dark ages of search engines and I was not online myself, so I was dependent on what this other guy could round up. Later on, after several trips to his house, and hours of photoshop tinkering later, I still had nothing tangible. And later still, he blackmailed me and ended up destroying the files because he and I worked a show (he on video, me on audio) where a camera he was using got damaged. I contended that it was his own fault for placement on a high and perilous perch and sloppy wiring, but he just wanted to sock it to me for the repair bill. So, he held the artwork ransom and then that all crashed and burned.
So, for a while, I adopted a theme of a similarly desolate image of an observatory in Hawaii. I can't remember what happened with that version, helped along at the house of a friend who was letting me dabble in Photoshop on his computer. Finally, in the spring of 2001, after about a year of this stalling and setback, I had entered a school where I was learning various digital art programs, and so made the current cover as a project. The thing is, I really hate it now because it was not nearly as well considered as I intended, and not well executed. If I had my druthers, I'd redo it and get my Very Large Array pic to return to the very image I had in mind almost as early as when Keneally was providing me with the title. C'est la vie!
Finally, the art did get done in the late summer of 2001, and I sent all my materials off to be pressed in Canada. At the end of October I had ten boxes of 50 disks each arrive on my porch. YOW! I knew I wanted to go beyond the CD-R approach, but this was a shock. I had them made commercial ready with bar codes and the like, but only as a precaution just in case I really stepped up to that. I have an Excel spreadsheet that chronicles the first couple hundred and where they went to, and how much they sold for, if they sold at all. Most of them were put directly in the hands of people I knew already. I always had a box in my truck. I probably made a nuisance of myself. After having self produced the whole thing I had to self promote, and I hate promotion. Still, I ended up building the first versions of TAPKAE.com around Receiving and the stuff one would need to know about me. I had it equipped with an early E-commerce service that probably cost me more in setup cost than I got from sales. I haunted websites and message boards and USENET groups. I got into web and digital arts in order to self promote as a musician, but then I found I was doing more of that than making music. Oh God, what a despicable time.
The actual production costs of mastering and then the pressing came to about $2000—about $4 per disk. I called them "my $4 business card." But how does one calculate how much really went into it? I bought gear all during the process. I paid to go to school to "learn" the graphic arts end of things (paid off years later, even!), I kept redoing bits of my studio space. Where does the accounting start and stop on this kind of thing? After about 100 copies went out in the early months, the pace slowed a lot until it was about 250. Then I had about that many left in my closet for years. And of course, drifting away from music like I was, it was no longer exciting to talk about or pitch to people. Moving house a couple times pushed those extra five boxes into obscurity even more. Finally, I got them all out late in 2009, about eight years after I got them finished, and began the process of literally giving them away willy nilly. I mean, I took them on my delivery routes, dog walks, trips to the store. I gave them away to people at work, planted them on random signs or even vehicles in parking lots, even on my tour to New Mexico and the Trinity nuclear test site. I left them on random windowsills of businesses in well-traveled districts. Yep, I wanted them GONE finally. The previous investment was now an abstraction. The dead weight of the CD boxes was a pain to move and store, but more of a pain to look at and be reminded that I had done nothing as ostentatious since. I have always felt that it was an albatross on my neck, with regards to being able to move on and do more music. When I started the creative spell that became Receiving, I had a bit of a pattern established that some of my creative periods were white hot and then were followed by a cool period of a couple months when I would do nothing.
Having decided early on that Receiving might be worth treating like a "real" CD (glass master pressing, etc.), I anticipated that I might need a good six months to "recover." That was an understatement. Here I am, ten years after the pressing was done, and nearly some more since the music was completed, and I have done nothing of this caliber or greater! I await the time when this reverses course. I have enough gear to make something. I dabble in playing. But... I don't like to think of Receiving as my swan song, but it has brought that to mind. The good news is that I have, since the free and random giveaway spell of late 2009, felt more like having my gear set up, and sometimes going and learning some songs, or documenting some ideas. Still a long way from the wild and intense sessioning that I did in the 1999-2000 era but there is a pilot light flame in there somewhere. I've felt better about shedding that extra bunch of disks. It has been liberating to just distribute them indiscriminately. I wonder where they are, who got them, who threw them out and who cherished it. I don't have a contact link on this site (call it laziness), and the email address on the CD is for my old Hotmail account which I didn't check for years but was able to reclaim once I started to give the stuff away in hopes that it might elicit some response. But I think someone could figure out how to get in touch. Where did all those disks go? Did you find one? TAPKAE (at) TAPKAE (daht) com.
Now that the music to this is ten years old and now that I have no more actual physical stock to sell or give away, the only thing left to do so that people hear Receiving is to do what I am doing here now, making it available for download. I'd like to recraft the cover art to better represent what I had in mind at the time. (Maybe that will show up.) I still take a listen to Receivingsometimes, and more so since the great giveaway. I do still remain proud of it because it certainly took a lot to get it done. For a while I withheld it from new friends so I could finally break the trend of endless self promotion that accompanied its completion. I consider it honest artistic output, but now I think of how lopsided it is in favor of the tortured artist effect. It isn't that I don't like those cuts; I do get a laugh or a surge of emotion in replaying the songs. I was pleased to find out how much of the song Tired still stands for me now. But I'd prefer to have more balance to things, and I guess I have not found the way to do that yet in music.
Here you can do the dirty deed and download the entire album and some extra goodies that missed the bus the first time around. Each of the 15 album cuts are encoded in AAC .m4a format—pretty generous on the quality (and file size), you see. You know the drill—right click to save, or just click to play here. Scroll down for liner notes and song lyrics to make your head spin. Or just use the indexed links next to the song titles and to return to the index.
- Receiving (notes)
- Tired (notes & lyrics)
- Purque the Insidious Goat Hustler (notes)
- 8th Grade Report Card (notes)
- The Frank Briggs Syndrome (notes)
- Inner Circle Decay (notes)
- Pearls Before The Swine (notes)
- Endless Cycle (notes)
- Pimps (notes)
- New Ex-Girlfriend (notes & lyrics)
- Threads (notes)
- Joytown ll (notes & lyrics)
- Crazy Boy (notes & lyrics)
- Zehdihm’s Flight (notes)
- Suburban Silhouette (notes & lyrics)
Outtakes and Alternates
- After the War (bonus)
- 612K (bonus)
- A Million Nights in Africa (Threads early version with guitars)
- Suburban Silhouette (alt mix with different lyrics and bass)
- Zehdihm's Flight (Mike Keneally version with Mike Bedard & Todd Larowe)
- Ed: drums, bass, guitars
Recorded at about 11 PM one night in October 1999. I played the drums with brushes and at the same time, I had one hand on the mixer, sending the drum mics into the echo, playing it as an instrument in the one pass. I jumped on bass right away and knocked out the droning E’s at least to establish a familiarity with the drum track. I ended up not doing it again, as it set the ideal backdrop for the guitar parts to come. The 2 guitars are each one shot takes. One of them seems to have a bit of the flavor of The Sheltering Sky by King Crimson—in particular the track with the harmonizer. It reminds me of that early Roland guitar synth sound. This track was among the earliest recorded, and it also set the tone for the disc as a whole. Being an improvised track that I mixed right afterward, it was a cue for me to follow—and sure enough, many more ideas were delivered in like fashion, and I’ve tried to keep as much of that early-take magic as I could.
- Ed: drums, bass, guitars
- Rebecca Vaughan & Dawne Forderer: vocals
This was recorded in a similarly quick fashion; on the same weekend! I wrote the words right before I went to bed at something like 6 AM. They all fell out in one big lump. The following evening I went in and recorded the music and a pretty final vocal within about 7 hours. Rebecca and Dawne were in the studio doing some silly disco track of mine and then I dropped this one on them and asked them to fill a little space. This is the only take they did, and in real time, with me giving cues between sections. People always ask if the girl voices are samples…As for the lyrics, they are all true. I’d never lie to you, would I? And as for the guitar solos… hmm, they’re in character…
I’m tired of disconnection, I’m tired of these walls
I’m tired of disaffection I seem to feel between us all
I’m tired of writing lyrics I’ll be the only one to sing
I’m getting tired of hearing so many songs I know don’t mean a thing
I’m tired of the devil, I’m tired of the Pope
But I’m also tired of what I hear people do when they’ve given up their hope
I’m tired of turning down my friends, I’m tired of being stood up
I’m tired of being left behind or not making someone’s cut
I’m tired of the ringing phone, I’m getting tired of that noise
I’m already used to being alone, but sometimes I don’t have a choice
I’m tired of temptation, I’m tired of defeat
I’m tired of having to hold my ground against the new guy on my street
I’m tired of being insane, I’m tired of being me
I’m getting tired of being so contained, yet I’m tired of being free!
I get tired of seeing things so bad, I’m getting tired of things like this
I get tired of feeling oh so mad, but maybe I just need a kiss…
I get tired of my balding head, I get tired of an empty cup
I get tired of going to bed, yet I get tired of getting up
I get tired of the loss of life, I’m getting tired of the tube
I’m getting tired of the secret handshake to a club that wants to call me “dude”
I’m tired of having to work out, yet I’m tired of the shape I’m in
I’m tired of seeing so many things stop that I don’t know how I’ll begin
I’m tired of shelling out my cash, a year before its earned
I’m tired of speaking out my mind, to be told I’m out of turn
I’m tired of the end of the world, I’m tired of Armageddon
You know it’s happened everyday this week, how many times? I keep forgettin’
I’m tired of the sales pitch, I’m tired of endless hype
I’m tired of winning a million bucks, ‘cause you know I’ll never see a dime
I’m tired of girls who are glad to see me when their boyfriends left them cold
You know I’ve been there one too many times and damn it’s getting old!
I’m tired of God’s army, I’m tired of His war
I gave his boys all my money—they’re still knocking at my door!
I’ve got a plan to fix all this, if only for a minute
I’d like to see the table turn, and I’d like to be the one to spin it
- Ed: keyboards, drums & percussion
I record a lot of things without knowing where I’m going in particular, and this is no exception. I had recorded a bunch of close ups on bells and drums and cymbals, maybe one bell to a track, that kind of thing, maybe with an effect like pitch shifting and delay. Then I’ll sift through the mess I’ve made and fine tune the masterful piece of art we have here. This track was a bunch of percussion for a few months before some equally mindless synth playing was added. At least there was something to mix, so I began the arduous task of arranging things in funny ways. Some things were played as you hear them here, but with no particular reference to any clock. I like to play tricks on myself by muting tracks as I overdub. Yes, the tracks that normal people use to reference where they are are the ones I may mute for tracks like this. It keeps things interesting. You get things that you could not get if you sat down and tried. It becomes a chance to be musical in ways you don’t get exposed to if you have the same working habits all the time. By the way… when this track was all percussive, I called it “perky” for percussion whenever I needed to label a song file, or make a mix for reference, etc. I just crafted this little moniker so it all didn’t have to appear as 2 different recordings.
- Ed: basses, electric & acoustic guitars
- Mike Bedard: drums
- Tom Griesgraber: Chapman Stick
The basis for this track is an improvised bit done originally by Mike and I. We used to go to high school together and played double drums every now & again. This was the first time I’d ever played an instrument other than drums, and this is the first few minutes of that new experience. The thing I dig highly about Mike’s playing is that even in improvised conditions, he remains very musical and sensible. Too many drummers (myself very included) get to flailing away in an unmusical mess when confronted with open space. My experience with Mike is that he leaves that space open until further notice, then when he does cut loose, you damn well know it. He’s a very well educated drummer and has one of the keenest ears and set of chops I’ve heard from a drummer. He’s very musical. Of the 20 minutes we recorded that day in early October ’99, the first 4 gave us this track, then about a minute later we played the basis for Joytown II and Crazy Boy. (The remaining few minutes are just as usable.) I recut the bass and added some bass overdubs , as well as a number of guitars. Tom Griesgraber makes a cameo appearance on the Chapman Stick, taking a few solos with that distinctive instrument. Some people have had issues with the sound of his solo, but I specifically asked for a nasty direct-sounding distortion (the kind you get if you tap the signal before it goes through a speaker cabinet.) I’d just heard the first Gordion Knot CD and there’s all sorts of crazy prog rock style Stick playing on there, as well as distortion sounds like this. I’d just gotten my Mesa Dual Rectifier amp and was nuts for the sound of an amp after having played guitar almost exclusively through the amp models on the VS-880. But since I knew that the Mesa would figure big into my future, I didn’t see the harm in letting an otherwise horrible tone through for contrast.
- Ed: bass
- Todd Larowe: guitar
- Mitch Grant: the phone call
For those that don’t know, most of my income is earned from live sound work, being a pretty flexible kinda thing that I’ve done for a few years. Sometimes you gotta sleep when you can, because there might be some ridiculous hours. On this particular night I went home after setting up a gig and took a nap since I didn’t need to be there for the show. I came back just late enough that Mitch (the Boss) had already started in on this phone call—I actually walked onstage as he was hanging up. Later, Toddley was playing these breezy chords and I caught the stuff on tape and just had fun with the message.
Update, July 2011: I had forgotten how this track got its name until just now when Frank Briggs, drummer extrordinaire who worked with Keneally for a short while, appeared on Facebook and opened up a vast can of memory worms from my heyday of Keneally fandom c. 1995-99. He apparently got known for taking naps and on a particular Facebook post, I was finally reminded about all that, and that in 1999 when I was recording this, the story was still kind of fresh in my mind.
- Ed: piano
It’s rare that I let my piano noodlings out into the world, but this one just kinda slipped under the radar. Spring 2000 wasn’t a particularly good time for me, so I turned out stuff like this and Joytown II. There were other piano bits that went along with this and there was a plan to put a 2nd part of this on the disc, but that would have made it too depressing. And we wouldn’t want that…depression and music don’t mix well, you know.
- Ed: drums, bass, guitars, synthesizer, noise
- Todd: guitar solo
I’d recorded the bed tracks and had Todd come over to put down a superb solo. I didn’t think he’d do it in one take before I even charted it out for him! Well, that’s the way these things go. No shit, he did this solo in one pass! There are notes that are a bit funny, but in the context of this track and it’s metaphorical meaning to this artist, those notes fit in just right. In fact, we went on and recorded 8 solos and ended up throwing 7 of them out before the end of the session. There is something about the uncertain edge that suited this track really well—that and the fact that he pulled it off with an extra smooth Jeff Beck kinda feel. Todd’s my hero.
As much as I’d like to relate to you the real and emotional story behind this tune, I have since declared such mudslinging as being ethically beneath me and would only be convinced otherwise in the context of transcendent drunkenness. Takers?
- Ed: drums, drums, drums, cymbals, bass, guitars and ebow, synthesizer, electric sitar
- Todd: electric sitar, drums
Todd and I were recording some silly things one night and before long, our double drumming became the bit that began this track’s life. I busted my chops on the keyboard parts—that kind of playing is out of my league for the most part, but every now and then I “get lucky” as Todd calls it. Most of this was recorded well before the Receiving project was thought of—about 9 months before. It got off to a good start, but like so many other tracks, after the rhythm tracks were done, I just clammed for a while (Todd and I were doing the Tamara project anyway, so we got sidetracked from a lot of work for a few months that year.) After I got in the swing of things in late ’99, I retracked the guitars and some sitar parts and put some more kickass in the drum parts by doing some cymbal overdubs and the sonic boom. There’s no real deep meaning here, folks… just enjoy!
- Ed: drums, bass, guitars, electric sitar, keyboards, samples, editing
Umm, there’s many ways to make music, y’ know? This whole collage of things started in November 1999 when I borrowed a keyboard from Bob Tedde. I started the recorder and then began to play a few seconds on each patch, spending a few more seconds on the ones that I liked at first hearing, but frankly the Alesis QS7 is a loss of a keyboard. The sounds aren’t great and its hard to edit and if it isn’t your own, you can’t save sounds that you do like. Nevertheless, its what I had to use for a lot of this CD. Anyway, I ended up with several minutes of utter nonsense on the recorder. Then before ennui set in, I jumped over to the drums and played along with whatever might turn up in the headphones. The lucky moments are mostly represented here. A few overdubs followed. Then, I took a rough mix to Mike Thaxton and we proceeded to dice things up further in the computer, which is what you hear here. I tried to mix things “properly” but it all worked out well enough this way. I’m kind of delighted at the nice dry sound of the drums. Like you care…
- Ed: drums, 5 string bass, guitars & ebow, vocal
This one has a little more rock & roll to it, albeit in a distinctly Ed fashion…well, it sounds a bit like Kaviar (of the Kevin Gilbert variety, which I was listening to around then-about June 2000.) While I didn’t dress in latex suits and gas masks, I did manage to produce a vocal tone an octave above my everyday voice. Now that is the kinky part! There’s a line in Tired that refers to “girls that are happy to see me when their boyfriends let them down.” This is a development on that theme. It’s amazing how lies can be so thinly veiled sometimes. Maybe more amazing is how well the strategy works. I don’t know why, but every guy I play this for knows what the second line will be before the first one is even over. Am I achieving critical mass with the male audience? Am I getting predictable?
The technically minded among you will be overjoyed to know that by this point in the album’s recording, I had acquired a tube preamp that I used extensively. Everything on this track was run through that box—the bass is pretty huge and the guitars got their distortion from the old fashioned process of turning up the preamp stupidly loud. The drums went down in 2 passes. After this point, there’s a bit more warmth to the sound. The tracks earlier in the CD were done with garden-variety preamps and compressors, the likes of which got replaced or retired as progress on the CD went on. One day, I’ll record a highly rehearsed band in multi-million dollar studios with ace engineers and outboard gear and mics that cost more than used cars. Until then, its gonna be the Hog Heaven way—utter creative freedom and pictures of pigs on the walls, even if the sounds fluctuate some from track to track.
As far as the ebow goes, this might be the best display of my own use of the thing to date. As I still don’t think of myself as a guitar player, per se, I find the ebow a helpful device to help myself think outside the box. There are so many noises you can get out of a guitar played with an ebow. This particular performance mostly avoids the long tone stuff that a lot of people do with an ebow. My approach here is what I call “sloppy spiz,” which refers to a violin technique (spizzicato, the bouncing of the bow on the strings). Since I was improvising the part, it’s not as specific as I’d get if it were a scripted part. But it's fine for the context it's in. This is the only guitar track that doesn’t use the Mesa amp. My Fender 5 string Jazz bass makes its debut performance on this track.
Maybe we should see other people…
I still love you; I’m just not in love with you
It’s not the same as when we started
All you ever want to do is have sex
You never hold me anymore
You don’t tell me you love me
I never get to see my friends
And you always get to see your friends
All you ever want to do is have sex
I really like you
I really want to be with you
I just can’t stand being around you
But we can still be friends…
Oh, it’ll be okay, you’ll find someone new
There’s other fish in the sea
Maybe you’ll meet somebody in a bar, or on the internet
Or in the paper or something
There’s always somebody who’d be happy to be with a person like you…
Well, you know…
I could never, I could never make you happy
You’d never be happy with me
But we can still be friends…
- Ed: drums, guitar, keyboard, and a coupla 5 string basses
First off, this is the second version of this tune. The original version is available in the outtakes list above these notes. That version was one of the first tunes that made it clear that I was on my way to a new project. It’s from September ’99. The original had three guitars. I had just bought the Mesa within the month or so before and was smitten with the tones I was getting. In addition, the Carvin guitar was new that summer, so the two of them were bound to get some use. Listening to version 1 right now, I kinda wonder what led me to retrack things so extensively. There are a few bits that could have been fixed, but by the time I did retrack stuff, I had forgotten the thing, so I had to relearn it all anyway. It got a lot more graceful with the piano. Funny thing—on retracking, I didn’t use the Carvin at all, and certainly not three tracks of it. I did double track the bass though—my Fender was new then, and I had a huge 35” Spector on loan to me. One had a midrange growl and the other had the huge bottom and sweet top end. Marc Ziegenhagen played keys on this version at one point, but we hit a few barriers—the section that now exploits the doubled basses once had a huge loungey piano playing big keyboard chords. It all got to be too much, and finally, I just let the bass carry the section. Doubling helped a lot.
I’d been listening to David Sylvian’s CD Dead Bees on a Cake around that time, and there’s a track on there that I’m positive I ripped off for the groove to this track.
This was another track that had its roots in a certain dismally failed relationship. It even had a title geared toward that particular someone. Or no one…
I had to change the titles to a few tracks. I decided on “Threads” after having some profoundly moving family experiences in the course of this album’s progress (actually in the dead time between the music’s completion and the art’s completion a year later). Both my grandmothers died within about six months, and I had a reunion with my mom and her side of the family, whom I’ve been away from for much of my life. That of course generated ripples across the pond. But I was also in for an overhaul anyway, as things had gotten to be pretty dismal on a variety of fronts. I finally reached a point where I had to reach in and summon some courage to leave some bad patterns behind, and patch up relationships. Some things in that period left a mark on me the likes of which were never experienced in my first 27 years. Having to experience so many things in about a six-month period nearly consumed me, but it left me a chance to fix a lot of things.
- Ed: 5 string bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Mike Bedard: drums
The drums in this and the next tune naturally segue, and these are the next few minutes of jam time between Mike and me, immediately following 8th Grade Report Card on the original recording. Right as I began to take this project seriously, webmaster, musical buddy and friend Mike Thaxton gave me a whole truckload of music to get into, including all the Kevin Gilbert I could want. I already had Thud and loved it. I was on tour with Bryan Beller and Toss Panos on the late ’96 BFD tour when the news of Kevin’s death was still resonating wildly in those guys. At the time, it didn’t matter to me, but when I got Thud, I finally put the pieces together.
Kevin was a huge part of life in that late ’99, early 2000 period. I was depressed out of my mind, and frankly, most of Kevin’s work was borne out of anger and pain and depression. He spoke to me at a deep level. Even if I wasn’t so bad off, it still is greatly impressive to consider his ability to play and produce anything he wanted. For that reason, he’s a hero for me. But his story took me over. I felt like a lightning rod listening to The Shaming Of The True. It’s hard to say, but that disc has had an untold influence on me. The guy is a fucking genius. It's one of those situations where the lyrics are so frighteningly on the mark but you wish they weren’t.
This is not the only Kevin Gilbert-powered track on this CD. It’s the only one specified so for general consumption, but I remember feeling as if Tired was influenced by Waiting, but set to a beat more akin to KG's Sheryl Crow bashing track, Fun. New Ex-Girlfriend has got a bit of the sarcasm and wit and bared the musical teeth that Kevin’s last band Kaviar had. Crazy Boy has something of the psychosis and at-rope’s-end quality found in Ghetto Of Beautiful Things or Shadow Self. Indeed, it is based on the same topic—that dark, nasty side of one’s personality that we like to think we can control, but surfaces now and then to remind us that we can’t have it our way always. Suburban Silhouette is a wake up call to see dangerous patterns we find ourselves engaged in, and could be considered a thematic companion to Goodness Gracious (one of KG’s finest songs, thinks me).
Yeah, we’re living here in Joytown
It’s the city of the sun
Everyone loves everyone,
Loves every single one
Perpetual fame is granted
To the geniuses of song
And Kevin never has to write
Another Sheryl Croaking song…
Yeah, we’re living here in Joytown
Where everyone is fair
Honesty and integrity and
Goodwill fill the air
Yeah, we’re living here in Joytown
Where I hear its all the rage
It s the shining of the true
It’s the turning of the page
- Ed: 5 string bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Mike Bedard: drums
Crazy Boy is a shouting match between the two figures on my shoulders. The peak of my knowing everything was when I was 23-24. I walked off three jobs within about eight months, each time making a scene, declaring all that was below me and generally being an asshole about it all. Well, the jobs I was leaving were nothing to feel precious about, but the end game behavior was beginning to alarm even me. Finally, I began to see some of the consequences of such behavior (and other things associated with it all) and decided that I should do something about that. I began to curtail many of the destructive tendencies that were affecting so many things for me.
Somebody do something! Somebody do something!
Somebody spring forth to save the day
This man is in need, he needs your help!
Save me from myself!
Crazy boy! Crazy Boy
I’m toxic to my mind
Why do you stick your hand in the fire every time?
I’m foolish till I’m blind!
Doesn’t it hurt enough the first time?
I’ve yet to spin out of control
You’re on a crash course with yourself, son!
This, I keep at bay…
Crazy boy! Crazy boy!
I’m searching for some kind
To help me to unwind
Before I spin out of control
Before I go that way
Somebody do something!
Somebody spring forth and save the day!
Save me from myself, save me from myself
Before I go that way…
Crazy boy! Why do you stick your hand in the fire every time?
Bang your head against the wall! Don’t you lose enough?
I’m toxic to my mind
Don’t you die a little more every time?
I’m foolish till I’m blind, I’ve yet to spin out of control; this I keep at bay
Searching for some kind
To help me to unwind…before I go that way
Oh, Crazy boy…
- Ed: all instruments in intro and ending—percussion, synthesizers, Wurlitzer EP, electric sitar, drums, guitar. 5 string bass and some synthesizer in middle section.
- Todd Larowe: guitars (middle section only)
- Mike Bedard: drums (middle section only)
- Marc Ziegenhagen: Rhodes and MiniMoog (middle section only)
Things I have left in me to say about this track: Damn! Three versions???!!! One year???!!! Glad it's over…
Okay, you people want more, so here goes.
I recorded the whole album in the time it took me and the guys to record this track right. It started in August ’99 with something that sounded a bit like the ending you hear here (let's call that “Intro 1”.) Intro 1 was attached to an early middle section that I made on my own. Form-wise, it was the same but was just a cut and paste job to help arrange things. I played two drum parts for some depth and variation and looped 24 bars four times. So far so good, eh? Little by little the music surrounding that drum part began to take shape—Dave Stark came in and did the modulating of the D chords and gave up the chorus melody, and later Todd came in and played an early version of that really cool rhythm that opens the rocking section, and later threw in the big bridge chords. Finally, I had arranged all the guitar parts and was close to calling it a day and mixing it as it was, but I took a stab at playing the drums live, but upon doing so discovered small but damaging timing errors in the drum loop, and EVERY take I did on drums as an overdub got snagged at the same place, and it was a physically demanding part to play in its original form. I found it practically impossible to complete it. I tried playing it over and over, tried fixing the loop by cut and paste means, lots of stuff. Mike Bedard took a stab at it. Just couldn’t get it.
So we tried a live version—Mike and I playing drums and bass in free time—no loops or metronomes. The recording of that was kind of limp, but it had the energy. But that synth that charges in to the middle section was not in it—it was an arpeggiated pattern that couldn’t fit the new timing, yet it was a big part of the sound and fury, and I deemed it necessary to the track—it’s the very thing that launched the middle section. I called Mike Keneally and he was willing to play keyboards on the recording, but had a real brief window to do it. I tried to have the rhythm tracks recorded again (#3) but it didn’t happen, so I could only use version #2—the live version that didn’t have the charging synth intro. Well, Keneally came in and recorded some furious solos and comps, learning the thing on the spot. Well, he was in and out in two hours, and I had a mess of parts to work with, but the sound of those parts was barely compatible with the recording they were put into. My heart sank when I realized the missed opportunity.
Sure, the MK tracks were pretty damn awesome, but the mix was next to impossible and the sequenced synth still wasn’t there! I tried hard to mix the thing, but there were three Dave guitars, three Todd guitars, bass, drums and three keyboard tracks. I only have an 8-track recorder!
Doomed. The track was deemed “too important to can” by Thax and I, so I had to soldier on. Meanwhile, the original intro got the axe, and I’d recorded a new one to go with middle section #2…less chaos, more ambience.
Somewhere in the spring of 2000, maybe March, I had Mike Bedard rerecord the drums, but this time it was done exclusively to the synth pattern. We had to massage the tracks to get the timing right, but finally the track had the synth and the live power at the same time. I had by then learned the bass part pretty well (this track was mind bendingly difficult for me to do on v.1 and v.2, but by v.3, it all came together in a one shot performance on my new 5 string Jazz bass, no less!) Todd was by now getting weary of playing the many guitar parts needed, and I swore if I had him do v.4, he could kill me on the spot! See, the guitar parts were numerous and redundant. Since the earlier task of doubling was tedious to play and hard to mix, we finally cut back and turned six parts into three, and used fuller, nastier tones to do the job. The keyboards were yet to be put on—I had to search for a guy who could rip off Mike Keneally’s parts because they were so cool. After some local searching, I realized that Marc Z would be in town to do the Beer For Dolphins album. He could rip off Mike’s work like no one else!!! And he had a Mini Moog that he was bringing! (Mike had played all his parts on the QS7, and that keyboard sounds horrible.) He was willing and able to come by in the few hours he’d have off from BFD duty but that was still 5 WEEKS from then! Well, it had already taken eight months or so, what’s another month and some?
While in the Marc holding pattern, I ended up recording yet another intro—more musical and purposeful, and it was made to go with the track in a very specific way…this is the intro you hear on the finished mix.
But by this point, I was confident in the rhythm tracks and I knew Todd and I didn’t have to discuss the guitar parts. Except one thing—some of the tracks Todd recorded were distorted!!! Ooh, that was gonna make Todd kill me! After Marc had recorded his parts here on his Moog and Ron Sada’s Rhodes, it took Todd some time before he was able to come in a patch up a few parts. I finally mixed the track in mid July—just two weeks short of a year.
- Ed: drums, bass, guitar, Nord synthesizer, Rhodes, vocal, vocoder
This was the last track to be done on the album, and it might not have been on here if I were in any haste, but I’m really glad that I had a chance to get this track in, because it wraps up the album in a neat way for me. It happened real quickly—about a week’s time. I had two or three other tracks in the final running order till this track cropped up. The CD was going to begin and end with Robert Fripp style soundscapes—the first (called “612K”) was going to be as gray as this track, and the ending cut (“After the War”) was going to be a lot more optimistic. But later consideration led me to decide the album did not need 11 minutes of soundscapes! Beside that, the timing on the whole project had swelled to over 80 minutes. Once this track began to take shape, I put blinders on and decided to do nothing but work on it alone and get it done for inclusion. I was already tired of getting delayed every few weeks, so I set my sights on getting this song done promptly. And I did.
Some people think this is a funny song. Actually, it’s a stone cold sober song about the country I live in. A few lines are mildly amusing, but really I meant it to be a wake up call, to the few who will listen to it. It reflects a whole paradigm for me. A lot of this country is built wrong; physically and otherwise. I certainly don’t mean to sound un-American, but a reasonably sober look at things will reveal that this country was built wrong. It takes its form in the shape of freeways, strip malls, shopping centers that are cloned from one city to another, suburban tracts, and other such mind-numbingly repetitive forms. America is made up of a collection of people seeking to move away from their past, to escape tradition. On an idealistic plane, the original Pilgrims are inspiring—fleeing persecution, starting a new life. Hey, that’s cool. It must have been neat when one could travel on foot for months and not run out of virgin land in most every direction. But we don’t have that anymore. I find it disgusting that this country is measured in units named “Denny’s” or “ARCO” or “Mc Donalds.” We have utterly chewed up and spit out so much land in our march across the country through the centuries. Folks, that’s not an option anymore.
The modern day pilgrim, if a bit less idealistic, is defined by people’s wanting to move just to move. Community of any genuine sort isn’t built that way. In more traditional living arrangements (almost everywhere else in the world), families may stay in the same place for generations. They will take pride in their home, however confined it may be. But the American way is to pull up roots every few years and go somewhere new when the front lawn dies, or a property value drops enough that the “undesireables” move in. The suburban (white, maybe affluent) flight leaves half-developed living areas open to decay by pulling money out of the area. At best, new suburban tracts are empty wastelands anyway, with no real use but to provide a place to sleep, throw parties, and meet the basic needs of life. Then compound that with the lower income people who will take the place over in their absence. They will inherit a place that has not real contact or interaction with a mixed population and all that comes with it. Suburban art galleries? Not likely. Pride in civic activities? Prolly not. The lower income folks won’t have the surplus funds to live a life filled with the niceties that middle income folks might take for granted. Their time is spent working at jobs that aren’t really going to raise their number in life; being good stewards in their community is harder, because they have to work just to survive. And maybe the kids are left to their own devices, looking to fill the time in any way they can, which may or may not be legal or healthy.
So yeah, I have issues with the pattern that cycles through families...moving just to move, always seeking for something that is elusive, but not being able to find it because of the seeking. The longing for community probably won’t be answered if we keep using up a bit of land then moving on, only to repeat the process in a new locale, with another McDogfoods to feed the masses. It’s a moving target because we’re the ones moving.
Sorry ‘bout that folks. Maybe I could talk about the song some more.
It was the first recording to use my new (1977 new) Rhodes piano, which I got in July that year. It’s also the first time I ever found a use for the vocoder. And, it’s the only track on the CD with a vocal that isn’t processed. Three firsts! I had a vision for this tune that developed pretty quickly—real dry, analog sounding, like something from the late 70’s or early 80’s. Kind of minimalistic. I tried even a small amount of effects on the voice, but it just didn’t go. This song is so different than all the other tracks on the CD, but it is such a summation of all I set out to do on it as well. I regularly get nice comments on this song from mp3.com listeners from all around the world. I’d say it was worth the extra week’s delay!
I get a kick out of the contrast between “Zehdihm” and this track—one is all overblown and bombastic, with shredding solos and different subsections, and then there is this track, which gets straight to the point with a one-two punch. The ending of the album just delights me.
I feel I must be moving on
Must escape my father’s past
I must find a future and I must find it fast
I’ll pretend to live and I’ll pretend to laugh
I’ll pretend I lead a happy life
And I’ll pretend it’s gonna last
In the suburban silhouette
I’m a great man
In the suburban silhouette
I’m my own man
One day I’ll start a family
And we’ll also have a dog
We’ll have parties with the neighbors
And we’ll pretend to get along
The kids will go to good schools
They’ll be free from drugs and crime
We’ll also have a big screen TV
To help them pass the time
I’m naked under all my clothes
And I’m over all that I’ve been through
I’ve left behind my problems past
My future’s coming into view
In the suburban silhouette
I’m my own man
In the suburban silhouette
I’m a great man
I see we’ve got new neighbors
And judging from their skin
I’m often left to wonder
How the hell’d they get in?
They’re corrupting all the order
They’re breaking all the laws
They have too many babies
And they’re driving noisy cars
What happened to my Camelot?
What happened to my plans?
It’s up in smog and parking lots
And a million taco stands
An endless row of burger joints
On the freeways and the streets
I wonder what my father’d think
Or would he faint in disbelief?
And now I move the family on
Must escape our children’s past
We’re gonna find our future
And we’re gonna find it fast
Ane we’ll pretend to live
And we’ll pretend to laugh
And we’ll pretend we lead happy lives
And we’ll pretend it’s gonna last