Archive for June, 2009

Coach House Songs

Posted in Songs on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

To The Bear

Mercury/Including The Night

Take Me Away, plus Outro

Thinking With My Eyes Closed

These are four songs (plus one outro) that I recorded in my first house in Chicago. It was a coach house on Humboldt Blvd, in Humboldt Park. For those who don’t know, a coach house is a separate building, usually in the back of a bigger building. Our coach house, according to my roommate Mike Sturgess (aka Michael and Linda Lyons and Violins), was in fact the actual old coach house (as in, where they kept the horse carriages) from when the neighborhood was a kind of playground for rich people, back when Humboldt Park was out in the country. We’re talking over 100 years ago. The great thing about the house was that we could make as much noise as we wanted. Also, during the summer our landlords, who lived in the mansion in front, would landscape the hell out of the yard, so we basically lived in a botanical garden in the middle of the ghetto. And, we had unfettered access to the giant deck over the garage, right outside our second-floor door. I don’t think Mike cooked anything not on the grill from May until October. The bad thing was that it was not really built for human habitation, so during the winter it was ungodly cold. I mean, really really really, I-feel-bad-inviting-you-to-my-house cold.

Our downstairs, living room area basically functioned as a recording and rehearsal space, which Mike and I both used. Mike had an old, really great eight-track cassette recorder, which I learned to use a bit, and which all of these songs (except “Mercury/Including The Night”) were recorded on.

“To The Bear” was the first song that I wrote after moving to Chicago, when I was staying with my cousin Brian, no job, no money. I’m pretty sure this is the first recording of me playing the drums. The water sound happened because I decided to record the vocals in the bathroom.

“Mercury/Including The Night” was written as a duet when I first started playing with my friend Anna Leja, with the idea that she would sing the question part of the lines, and I would reply with the answers. Ultimately, I got my mom to sing with me, and I think it sounds pretty good. It tickles me to hear her exclaim “This is a hard song” at the beginning. I’m really happy with the songwriting on this one, and hope to do a more professional recording of it. I’m playing drums on this one, too.

“Take Me Away” was written after a visit from an old friend. The base track, of guitars and vocals, was literally the second or third time I had ever played the song. I’ve had people tell me, and I can’t argue, that it sounds like a mournful song, but it was actually meant to be a kind of celebration of that feeling of being really comfortable being where you are with a person. The “Outro” is basically the same chord progression all hopped up. Anna is playing the drums.

“Thinking With My Eyes Closed” came about one of those cold winter mornings when it was so hard to get out of bed, knowing that I wouldn’t be warm again until I got back into bed. It’s not a profound song, but I wanted to try to write something really rocking without using a guitar. Mike, being the perfectionist that he is, spent about four hours mixing it.



Posted in Industrial Death Metal, Songs on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

I Wanna Date Yer Dogg

The Accusatory Egg

Um. Where do I start? These are two more things that were made at Jonathan Grossman’s place. The name for this “side-project” came to me one night when I was super-high, sitting in my car trying to work up the composure to drive the few blocks home. (I know, I know, I know that this is not a good idea. That was then.) Something happened and I exclaimed “Jesus, hell!” Playing the age-old game of “What kind of band would that be?”, I immediately decided that it should be an industrial-death metal band. Not really knowing what that means, or much caring.

So, these two songs were born of that divine revelation. “I Wanna Date Yer Dogg” was the first one. “The Accusatory Egg” came out of another funny story. My roommate, Captain Sunshine, had recently broken up with his girlfriend. One morning, shortly thereafter, I came out, half-asleep, onto our back porch and found on the ground a paper plate with a fried egg, and, in what looked like dried blood, the word “accusatory” written on it. For several months its meaning and origin remained a mystery, until we found out that the ex-girlfriend and her friends, in a fit of rage, were going to egg our house, but decided that was too mean. So, they fried up an egg, and, just in case we didn’t get it, wrote “accusatory” on the plate in ketchup. How do you not write a song about that?

Somewhere in the back of my mind is the idea to write a whole album of these songs with strict guidelines. All under two minutes, and all with some completely incongruous breakdown stuck right in the middle. We’ll see.

The Grossman Sessions

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

My Favorite Lullaby

Smart Ones

House Made Of Stone

Here To Stay

These four tracks were recorded in Tucson, AZ with my old friend Jonathan Grossman. Jonathan spends most of his time making house music. Or is it House Music? I’m not sure what it is, really, but he’s a DJ and beatmaker. This was before I had a computer set-up of my own, and was really anxious to see what could be done recording on a computer, so I convinced Jonathan to let me come up to his place and make some music.

The first two tracks are songs that had been written before (but not much before) going in there, and are basically demo versions of songs that are on Eat What You Kill. For several years these were the only versions of these songs, and I really love them. I’m sure there are old friends who have grown attached to these versions and will argue that they are better than the new ones, but I don’t think they have to be in competition with each other. In the same way, I don’t believe a movie version of a book can ruin the book, because the book is still there to be enjoyed.

“My Favorite Lullaby” was the first song I had ever written like this. Up until this point I was writing sad-sack folk songs, and other strummy stuff. When we were done, Jonathan looked at me and said, “I didn’t know you could sing like that.” And I was like, “Neither did I.” The percussion that is through the whole song are poker chips, and the stuff at the beginning is Jonathan’s sliding door and squeaky chair. Everything besides the percussion, voice, and bass are MIDI instruments. I’m always jealous listening to this, because the synthetic instruments Jonathan has are so much better than mine.

“House Made Of Stone” was built in that room with Jonathan, and originally was meant to be a new version of an old song (hence the title), but I could never get the lyrics to work right, so we ended up just leaving it as an instrumental. This is probably one of my all time favorite bass lines that I’ve ever written. I was really trying to channel the Flaming Lips.

“Here To Stay” was more on Jonathan’s home turf, with me playing things that he turned into samples, and singing the main riff. I don’t know a lot about this kind of music, but whenever I hear it, it seems like the lyrics are a bit generic, so I just let them be that way. I was thinking about a girl for whom I’d had a thing for a long time, but never was able to make happen.

Alice’s Birthday

Posted in Songs, Whimsical on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

It was my friend Alice’s birthday and I had been so consumed with making music that I hadn’t gotten her anything. So, I recorded this ridiculous song in an hour, knowing that no matter how bad it was it would make her happy just to have a song about her. When I finished it, I put it on my ipod, rode over to the bar, dragged her outside and played it for her.

It’s been called awful by another friend, and while I see his point, it was really nice to do something so completely whimsical and carefree. And fast.

The James Lee Sessions

Posted in Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

Bossa Nova

Une, Dos, Tres, Quatro

Clap, Clap, Clap

Metal Song

These four tracks (there’s one more, somewhere…) were recorded in my house during the spring of 2008. My friend James Lee and I had both recently quit our jobs at the sushi restaurant where we met, and had nothing but free time on our hands. James is a fountain of very great and very diverse musical ideas, but has very little discipline and seems to forget most things that he plays immediately after playing them, which is a travesty in my opinion. So, he would come over, I would set up some mics, and basically let him play until something cool happened, at which point I would have him go back, hit record and start shaping it into something.

I love listening to these tracks, as incomplete as they are. “Bossa Nova” really had us wishing there was some whispery-voiced girl around to sing. “Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro” seems to go on forever, but is so groovy I don’t really care. The end part of “Clap, Clap, Clap” became the song “La Semilla”, which is on Eat What You Kill. Listening to it, I still kind of like it better. (Don’t tell.)

In Outer Space

Posted in Songs on June 10, 2009 by alopecoid

Studio Version

Acoustic Version

Two versions of the same song. The first one was made in the long winter of 2007-2008, mostly in the practice space I shared with some friends. This was largely an effort for me to learn how to use Pro-Tools and see what I could do with it, both as far as multi-tracking and diversity of arrangement, taking a song and putting in as many musical ideas as possible.

I’ve included the acoustic version to feature the song itself, and to show how different the studio version is.