30 April 2008

first post + sequencing

We started recording Dirty Moons in the spring of 1995, and the last bits were put to tape in the fall of 2007. Why did it take so long? It's hard to say, but I figure it's better to dish than be coy or dismissive about it, which is what I'd usually do. The simple answer is that this is what I wanted to do, which sheds no light because sometimes we did want to finish but could not. Unfortunately there's no easy explanation for why it all went down the way it did, so I will address the elephant directly in these first few posts and no doubt beyond.

Part of the problem is that I've tried very hard to both embrace and shatter dualities on this album, to learn to love apparent contradictions, but also to toss them about as predator vs. prey. More about that later, but the end result is that it's very hard to make many general statements about it, and the same goes for the process. It "took" a dozen or so years, but actual studio time? Maybe a month's worth of 12+ hour days, give or take a few.

There are a lot of reasons it's taken so long, and there are a lot of things that happened. Sometimes it's difficult to tell which is which. Here's one:

There are close to 100 different sequences here. The pages stack up ~ 3/4" high, so most aren't visible. Even worse, these are maybe one third of those I ever wrote down. At some point I realized how ridiculous it was getting and decided to start saving these ("Do you really need yet another variation? You probably already wrote it down and don't even realize it. Look through the stack before you do it yet again.")

When circumstance or finance did not allow work on the album, I did this instead. One of my goals was to make an album with lots of contrasts (all levels: production, composition, sequencing, ad infinitum) - I like when songs pull the listener to unexpected dimensions, like you closed your eyes for a second and now you're instantly somewhere else. But I also wanted it to have cohesion and internal logic. For a long time I was being too cute, trying to put certain songs in certain places - I really, really wanted to make Cut-Out Bin third song, side two, but it didn't work. I had plenty of other targets to aim at too, certain songs just HAD to precede others, some "belonged" to particular sides... I set myself a puzzle that by definition could not be solved. Eventually I gave up all my sacred cows and preconceptions and hit upon the correct running order.

I picture the sequence as a party. You have to park pretty far away and as you're walking towards the house you can already hear the band in the distance, gaining in volume and intensity as you approach. They're playing in the front room of the house and you walk in the door just as all hell breaks loose. Maybe in the bridge a nitrous tank comes your way, or you drink something you shouldn't have, and you wander through the rest of the house, each of the following songs being a different room. But you don't get involved in conversation for long, you're just scoping the action and deciding where to settle. The first side is sort of a quick overview of the party, it's the whole album in miniature (tracks 1-3 share methods with side 2, track 4 is analogous to side 3, track 5 to side 4). After casing the joint you settle in a rather animated and chaotic area of the house, each song a person, crowd of people, conversation, perhaps overheard, or something you felt or witnessed. The same goes for sides three and four, but there are different groups of people and atmospheres in those parts of the house. Just like a party, people come and go; the sides are not discrete, although each is a valid entry point. There are shouts heard from other rooms, a ruckus outside maybe, always hallways, basements, and roofs too. The power even shorts or browns out a couple times.

In the end it is about creating a world real enough to be shared, yet tempting and extraordinary enough to be desired. A summoning.

The sequencing wasn't just about structure or which songs could make the cut, it was also a way for me to solidify the material. The album being at the time in a thoroughly incomplete state, I would listen through the whole thing in my head, editing and rearranging an album that did not really exist yet. The bitching guitar solo in We've Only Tasted the Wine was "written" this way (with Joe Thebeau assist for the germ of the first lick) and much of what I think really makes the record special happened this way, especially in regards to feel, tonal color and some of the more involved arrangements.

These were dark days for me. I had so much of the album in my head, so little on tape; it was the only time in my life that I feared death in the existential sense because I knew the album could not possibly be completed if my number got called. I've often felt that this is my final lifetime and I worried that I would have to reincarnate or wander if I didn't get it done. The relief that I felt as the "big" songs were mixed down to the 1/2" master was overwhelming, physical, practically an orgasm. And yeah,
I could have alleviated it all by recording digitally, but that was a giant NO for me.

But sweetest of all? We're gonna get this fucker out before Chinese Democracy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nearly fifteen years of nothing and now a welter of blogs, websites and preview tracks. Good lord.

If it's all as good as "the cut out bin" then I can't wait already.

Nerdily of Australia