I don’t expect this to be comprehensive in terms of expressing my feelings because that would be impossible, because I am tired, a little tipsy and the events leading to the creation of this next album are essentially indescribably complex, but I would be remiss not to catalog, in some way the legacy of its manifestation.
Hrm, I will endeavor to turn off my verbose brain I think to get this across.
As I write this it is 5am in Los Angeles, my sister left for Toronto this morning en route from a pilgrimage to the mystic ancient city of Machu Pichu in Peru to a Tech trade show in Canton, China. My uncle Paco is visiting from Ecuador and is sleeping in my bed, my girlfriend is sleeping on the floor (her grandfather is being taken off life support in the morning) and Josh Joudrie, my co-producer and soundman for Blue Dog Pict, visiting from Toronto, is sleeping on my couch. Having nowhere left for myself to repose, I am up typing this chronicle.
We started this album three years ago. An effort to continue to the work we did with BDP almost a decade ago. Lest you don’t know me, I am not some balding wannabe ex-rocker seeking former glory days. I am a kid who didn’t feel like I had yet reached the root. So I decided it was time to move to the next set of songs and find a way to tell their unique stories. I had no money in my pocket, I still don’t, but I have found in that, some amazing benefits – restrictions engender innovation, experimentation, cunning, tenacity, faith and play, and all of those put together lead to extraordinary ideas that may have otherwise been circumvented.
I would not trade a single moment of my tumultuous journey for any other. I have learned so much and continue to learn.
Because we recorded this album piecemeal – parts in Toronto, parts in Los Angeles, parts in England via email – it has been a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to assemble. After months, even years of configuring arrangements, painstakingly lining up different audio sources and trying to find their relationships, something as simple as bringing a completely new voice like Marc Thomas (of LA band Madras) to play guitars can re-liberate a song and make it feel totally alive all over again. You see, in the editing process, we find all the various pieces that we have recorded and build a comp. After cleaning it all up it feels a little stilted and after the fact. Having a new musician with fresh ears come in and just replay it with their own unique brain makes it feel completely inspired and in-the-moment. And that is because it is.
Last week, Ryan Brown came in to replay some snare and cymbal parts. Instead we ended up playing brushes on the windscreen, chopsticks on pots, pans and coffee jar lids and throwing things around the room while Pro Tools was faithfully recording at 24 bits in the background.
Marc brought in a heap of pedals and I added my own to his arsenal. We spent four separate days tracking guitars just for Killing Days; primary melodies, harmonies, swirling ambient washes, whatever occurred to us in the moment.
I would then assemble all of this discovery into a variety of stereo tracks, line them up, make a hundred decisions, and then when I would retire as the sun came up over Santa Monica Boulevard, Josh would wake up and take over, making sure the drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals all lined up, that their phase relationships were coherent and so on. He is the ultimate audio tech head. It’s why I keep him around 😉
Now, almost two, three years later, we are closing in on seven amazing opuses. Sonic journeys. I have no idea what they sound like in relation to what plays on the radio. None. We even recorded “Box“, an acoustic album comprising several of my songs that didn’t want to be played by a band while doing vocals for this record – for me and for you – just to tide things over while we sorted out the rest in the meantime.
Sure I listen to stuff coming out now, but that has nothing to do with this other journey I have been on – that of making this record I decided will be called “Come To Life” about a year ago. The name comes from a catchphrase for the annual Sky Pirate holiday (celebrated August 4th) I created called Robot Pride Day – “My daddy builds robots; we don’t tell anyone. They have come to life. Come to life.”
The lyrics are poems I wrote at some point (of trouble, typically) to remind my future self that I have endured in the past, and that I will endure again, and every time come out the wiser, the stronger and the richer. They are about the soul, about the death of some of my closest allies, about faith, about us, about the future, about the past, about mystery, reason and benevolence and fear.
I don’t know if and when you will ultimately hear the fruit of all this labor and play and duress and fascination. Maybe it will be your children. Maybe it will all be buried under the ground. But if you do, drop me a line and let me know if you tapped in to everything that is going on with it. It is all bigger than me; the amazing talents of those involved, the adventures that led to its creation, and whatever encompasses the sum of its parts. I want to know what it is and what it did.
I hope to have Come To Life ready by the end of 2009.
Thanks for listening. Really. Every time you let me know your ears are receiving these transmissions, they fill up some little emptied battery cell in my soul.
los angeles, april 6th, 2009
As the story goes, a young boy, hungry and road-weary wanders into a small village with nothing but a small rock in his hand. He enters the village tavern and walks straight into the kitchen where he greets the cook and proclaims that he will teach him the secret to the greatest soup in the world if only he will offer him the pot to demonstrate. Bemused and intrigued, the cook hands the boy a well-worn cast iron pot.
“I shall return with it promptly” the boy promises and heads back out into the village and over to the first house on the left. Knocking on the door, he is promptly received by the old woman who resides there to whom he shares the same story, promising the same result in exchange for a donation. She has nothing but some wilting parsley which the boy modestly and accepts before proceeding.
He continues in this fashion moving door to door until he has acquired celery, beets, carrots, venison, potatoes and so on. Having raised considerable curiosity among the townsfolk, he now assembles them at the town square where he asks for a match which is quickly offered. He takes a moment to consider the various contributions he has accumulated and decisively selects the most complementary which he then drops into the pot.
The fire beneath the cauldron is lit and the ingredients set to boil.
“Behold!” shouts the boy at length, drawn from the kindness and variation of your respective hands and good will, I now summon the forces of magic to deliver to you the greatest recipe in the world!”
The boy begins handing out bowl after bowl of the resultant stew and the townsfolk, thusly congregated partook of a communal and bounteous culinary experience.
Well, in so many words, that is how we made the record. Two in fact. I started despondent, out of luck and resources, or so I thought, until one day, exhausted with exhaustion, I forced myself to begin, with one hundred percent commitment. Not 99.9% but 100% – which meant at all costs, take no prisoners, whatever it takes. Without ever harming an animal or an ego, without over imposing or burning a bridge, we are almost ready to share the communal result of this experience with the general public.
“Box” is a set of acoustic material that needed it’s own space and time to be presented and will precede the release of the full rock record “Come To Life”. And until the very last minute, we will still be making rock soup; drawing on the talents, enthusiasm and good will of musicians, engineers, designers and music fans to bring together these new musical projects.
Where so many people are concerned with getting the cash together so that they can then do what they want, we are proving again that tenacity, audacity and pragmatism, coupled with passion, curiosity and a good will together make a powerful force indeed. Even today Josh and I were welcomed to Darcy Macguire’s studio in Toronto to track some last minute vocals for a pair of songs we decided to append to the Box album, one of which was written by Paul Gallinato that we recorded on his brief visit to LA from Buenos Aires.
Josh and I have been capturing video chronicles of the process and we want to share it with others who may be interested in creating their own indie ventures. The first episodes of Rock Soup will be premiering on YouTube within the month of November, so keep an eye out. And more importantly, keep an extra 10 piece aside for the release of Box, coming to you before xmas.
If you have a cool story about how faith and dedication manifested something amazing in your life, I would love to have you reply to this post and share it with our readers.