OK, Here I am. But I’m not really here. I hear a mystery ‘click clack’ of keyboards, so I know I exist somewhere. But I’m not here.
This is my state lately. I’m a ghost in this world. I keep my obligations. I show up for appointed work schedules. This week I’ve even performed before a lovely crowd of New Haven eccentrics and held my eccentric own. All of those folks saw me live in technicolor.
But I wasn’t really there. I’m always elsewhere these days. Even as I type this, my real desire is to go find a cheap, build able sound baffle.
I’m making a record. It will be out come spring…
OK, not spring…a hot summer release….
OK, maybe not.
Fall. Definitely fall.
Writing songs, capturing moments of angst or joy, in a slow hymnal or quick yip jump fashion is my calling. And good fortune gave me a voice to sell them with and a rudimentary understanding of guitar that allows the songs to get writ.
What I wasn’t provided with was the technical way of thinking that engineers use to wring out the full potential of simple songs into hushed or clattery moments of beauty. A sense of appropriate miking techniques. A subsonic sense of hearing squeaks and bumps as they happen so they don’t haunt come the mastering. I’ve decided at this point to not only learn all this stuff, but create what I believe will be a proper representation of myself in sound, lyric and style. And one I will die defending.
If its listenable. At all.
So as you see me, shake my hand, write me and get written back, know that beneath every word is a distraction. As I provide valuable customer service at my job, I’m really trying to remember the myths associated with ‘Pet Sounds’ and doing the math to see if there is anything in them I can use.
As I drive to said job, I now travel with a coffin sized bag of Cd’s basically encompassing the history of 20th century recorded music trying to note the subtleties / similarities tween Howling Wolf and The Hold Steady.
If you see me shopping and stop me, I will appear completely corporal and present, but I’m really trying to figure out what the fuck lo-fi really means? Is it a reduction of instruments used…or using the standard set up and recording it poorly? Cause one is called ‘folk’ and the other is called ‘garbage’.
Which raises the important question: what is a quality recording?
I grew up listening to the classic 70’s records, as I was force fed classic rock via the radio. This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the Big Record Fetish. Huge monster drums and rumbly bass, cutting guitar and multitudes, many, choirs of virtual angels mixed in with church bells and congas and Moogs by the mouthful.
And this casts my memory back to the days when something called ‘Behind The Music’ was on (kids, ask yer parents) and how castles and haunted mansions, scores of weirdo hanger on’s grabbed a shaker and contributed, and how the record company paid for it all.
Till the bottom fell out mainly based on some crazy culture’s feeling that music should be free. And they freed it.
Not my point….my point is what is a good recording? The BIG records….the Zeppelin’s and Electric Ladyland’s…..the wispy drug fueled progressive records…. are not what I listen too now. And I haven’t for a long while.
What I listen to is best described as stark and minimalist. My Holy Grail, The Mountain Goats. My conscience, Vic Chesnutt. Old Leonard Cohen records. Muddy Waters on Chess. Sparklehorse
What matters to me is purity, subtlety, and this is where I’m drawn. I have no issues with the quality of the recording, the click clank of tape recorders, the shouted out ‘1,2,3,4’, the misplayed chord on a single tracked guitar. It thrills me, to fall in so deep to music, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else understands it.
So then….why do I feel the need to make a BIG record which is clearly beyond my ability and interest?
Whose approval am I subconsciously seeking? Griel Marcus? Yours?
Music is practically free. But now, so is the musician. We need not fit the suit that will make us a Superstar (Johnny Bravo style). Odds were always long and have now gone astronomical. We are free to be what we wanna be, Marlo.
I sound convincing, don’t I? Yeah.
Meanwhile …. there is beauty in creating. Even alone, confused at what to do with my Send’s and BUS’s. Hopelessly lost in my effects. I add a guide vocal for cello recording Sunday (shout out to Julie Kay! Hi Julie, see you tomorrow!) and get lost in a moment, the guitar in my headphones, I sing a sad song and connect with the lyrics I barely remember writing. It all came back to me in a flash and I remembered every injury, every wound that made this record important to me.
Make the record you want to make. Don’t over complicate it. Keep it pure and simple.
And send half your tracks to a legitimate scientist to record.
And if you see me this summer (which you likely won’t. I’m making a record), forgive my distraction, my 1000 yard stare. Pretend I’m there.