Jun 26, 2013

Degree of Murder, Nothing Known, Nothing Certain

Woman don'tcha know what you do?
you just sold me out, left there no doubt
of what I should do.

A plaintive cry. The weight of injustice in the greyness of Truth. Degree of Murder is a heavy song. Though not one that draws a lot of attention to itself. It is like the quiet kid in the back of the class with a dark story. Avoiding the spotlight. Keeping to itself. While others talk and make themselves known trying to interesting, this one easily is the most interesting.

Woman wicked and cruel
your kind evil lips, strange words you do hiss
in the ears of a fool

Pistol, sticks to my hand
a deafening cry, your tears shine delight
cause they can't prove it's you

Sometimes Truth seems so concrete. So certain. He is there. Pistol in hand. Smoke rising from the barrel. The body beneath him, still warm. Truth is clear. The hand that pulls the trigger is guilty. But it seems that the moment the event happens. Everything becomes much more convoluted. The solidness of the past on which we have built ourselves with certainty becomes flimsy. Becomes hazy.  I'm not sure if I remember last week clearly.  Is he working alone? What were the motivations? The intentions? What was the victim doing there? Is it murder? Self-defense?

Degree of Murder has a slowness. The story is reveals , with no sense of urgency. The droning church organ. The watery guitar. The country bass line, all moving together in pace. The song is played very tightly, I'm proud of that. I remember approaching Dan with the idea for the harmonica solo. He asked me to play it for him first. I did. I think he laughed at me, cause without the music the solo sounds like random chaos. But he indulged us, and I recorded it. Afterwards I think it fit in really nicely.

That is why I chose to write about a murder. By now you might see why this appeals to me. Not for the murder itself. - Which I find detestable. I feel regret even when I step on a bug. - But for the questions that inherently live around it. It's probably also why I am so drawn to a good crime drama.

Woman what have I done
I took with my hand the life of your man
for a moment with you

Explanations. Theories. Reasons. Of all kinds and types can explain what we do. It was a past trauma. It was genetics. It was evil. It was justified. They can all be thrown in. They all separate the act from the actor. They create a boundary of what we perceive happens, from what happens.

Often we hear of two-sides to every story. But as I have been writing I've learned that is not accurate. There are as many sides to a story as there are minds to view it. Every person takes in the event, experiences it in their own way. Some of them do overlap, and would seem to be one consistent perspective, but each truth is tinted with its own personalities and histories. Every character, every person has a unique understanding of what the truth is. And as it grows, and as more people try to understand, the truth becomes less and less clear. And what is a simple act becomes much and more.

If one thing has kept me sane through this path of being a musician, Which is filled with a lot of craziness - fair warning if ever any of you decide to try, It has been my understanding of this: Nothing is known. Nothing is certain. My Truth is for me alone, and others may never completely understand it. Words try to help us convey what we know. But words will fail us. And most of the time they do. So I try to chose mine carefully.

the black moth bore no ire
belonged to none but fire
follow me, follow me in
the fire, the moth, the touch,  a twin


image source: http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Film%20Noir%20Posters/Film%20Noir%20Poster%20-%20Apology%20for%20Murder_01.jpg

Jun 19, 2013

Little Girl, A Full Heart

Little girl, your tongue turned black when you spat at the world.
Little girl, you drifted away. Long after the music started to stray away...

There is a slight difference between a song that tells a story and a song that is a story. A musical. The kind in movies and Broadway. Maybe it's the difference between being the character and the narrator. Or perhaps its having several characters in one segment? Where the music is enhancing not only the overall story but also personalities of the characters. Whatever it is. There is a difference.

Little Girl, for all purposes, is a song from a musical that never existed. An attempt to portray characters as themselves. Though not completely. I didn't want it to be too over the top. Less actual Broadway, more the impression of. I don't think it would do to have an actual musical number. There is a fine line. Some great songs have come out of musicals, but few stand on their own as something I would dig on a record. Most need the context of the full story.

You think it's better lonely, isn't that what you told me?
You want to make your money. You better think of me only

The main key keeping this song falling in to full chorus-line being I narrate about the Little Girl character, rather than her singing her own part. Without the visuals the story is more ambiguous. So we had to set mood with music. That is the main reason for the dramatic shifts in style that move through the song.

There is the main section about the girl. Running away from her problems. And a violent antagonist who's holding her back.  Who is the character of the bridge played by Abe. - Who did a great job getting in a villainous character voice. - This is set by the walking bass line, the rolling piano rhythm, and the high-hat hit. Then for the bridge, the music gets a lot more aggressive. Everyone playing on the same pulsing attacking beat. This is the villain theme.

Then there is a dance interlude. Imagined to be her deciding on what to do with her life. I pictured a dancer moving back and forth across the stage. In throws of confusion. Her choice to stay captive to her past. Or venture to the future. It felt like a classic musical storyline.

The bossa-nova break is actually tricky to get. The time switch. The feel change. It all depends on how the drummer can handle it. I loved the octave piano solo Abe does. My bass work was really fun. Scaling up and down. Writing a McCartney-esque  melody. Check out a live version from Hear Ya:

Finally it ends in the solo. Which is the culmination of the parts. The moment she decides. I felt it was important to leave it up in the air. I like the idea of not-knowing what the future is.

Little girl, you're a flat back woman with no where to turn
Little girl, take a chance make a run, you better hide from the gun

I always wanted to give writing this kinda piece a shot. It was an itch I had to scratch. One I'm proud of. A real fine moment on the record too. I think the idea might sound too lame for some. But songwriting has to be fearless. Regardless of what others might say or think, ideas should be explored. With a full heart. Unashamed. It would be impossible to work with fear of rejection. Not that it doesn't cross my mind, I just don't give in. Be bold. Be daring. Most important, Try something new.

her face, like I had never seen before
beamed into the dark. a song, cutting
the corners of our hearts. with a collective gasp
of an audience unaware of her art. of stripping us,
cleaving off and discarding our worst parts,
leaving their seats lighter than at the start.


image source: http://www.cinemaretro.com/uploads/cyd.jpg

Jun 12, 2013

Another Day, The Lull Of Having

Another day, another night
The moon's clear but too high to reach
As I lay in the dark
I wonder where it is you are
 Another day, another night

I've always been a fan of taking the mundane and trying to make it more. On first glance it seems there is not much to Another Day. An honest criticism, but it's hard to fault a piece for it's subject. Like disliking someone for simply being a person. I wanted to use an average day, maybe that is a boring idea to some. To me it was an opportunity to express something different. Something honest.

Another night, one more day
She'll be home to stay
But for now, just for now
It's seems too far from me
Another night, another day

Pop music lives in a hyper reality. Flushing out the real drama in life. That is why it is so easy to write about falling in and out of love, losing relationships, death, social issue. High drama is blood for inspiration.

This was my first bass-solo. I remember how exciting it was to be able to take the lead of the song. It's a different feeling to be standing out. When you are in the rhythm there is a lot to blend into. It's easy to hide in the background. But the solo stands on top. It demands the spotlight. I used a vintage Fender Bass VI with flat wound strings, and came up with the lick. The song is about space, and tension. I tried to push that in the solo. Also another great background arrangement.

I remember when the idea came. A lazy weekend. Cleared cause I was expecting my girl back home from a semester abroad. It had been so long since we had seen each other. I was supposed to go over during a holiday break, but I wasn't able to raise the money. And skype/camera phones weren't what they are. So many blurry shots, and dropped calls later, we had finally made it through.

 And I was waiting, with nothing to do. I cleaned. I watched the walls. I walked. Then I got an email: Her home coming was even further delayed by weather. It was going to be another day or two before she came home.

Sweep the floor of gathered leaves
And things that I once believed
Wave goodbye with the sigh
As they float away from me
 Another night, another day

I spent the rest of the weekend waiting. I read. I was into  -and still am- haikus. There is an ingenious spark I found there. What makes them easily dismissible is also their strongest attribute. The simplicity. The boldness of being direct. It is the poetry of life. The simpler it is written. The more the reader can project into it. The trouble is giving them enough to want to project into the lines. And though I didn't use the 5-7-5, I did find inspiration in the brevity.

So I wrote a story, not about the details of the relationship- but the pain of the in-between. The pause. The rest. The lull of having and not being able to have. There is importance and symbolism in our daily rituals. Cleaning. Cooking. Working. We only have to flush it out.

a light pluck,
luminous dissonance. I
hear it all again 


image source: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3529/3241450258_0521cdaa4e.jpg?v=0

Jun 5, 2013

Got To Get Back Home, The Good Path

-got to get back home to you, little darling. Of all I've done it'd be my biggest sin, if I never could make it back home again.- I'm fallen and weak in this hot desert heat. My skin holds my own blood boiling. I'm blistered and red, but a promise I said, keeps pushing me on through my toiling.

Some get into rock for fame. Some for money. Some for attention. Yes it can have all that, though it is so rare, you might have better odds with the lotto. It seems attainable. A personal El Dorado. A hint, a fragment of a clue to a direction. Always a step ahead. Always out of reach. Until it isn't, and that's what makes the dream so enticing.

Hacienda has been my Quest. Travelling. Hunting. Exploring my world, myself, and the people around me. Battling obstacles, pitfalls, clich├ęs and naysayers. Always jumping to the next thing. I don't know if it will ever end. Or what the end would look like. It is just something I do. If you are familiar it is a lot like Pellinore and the Questing Beast. What good would it be to reach the end? What if Pizarro found El Dorado? Would he sit at home with his treasure, and wait? Would he ever be satisfied? The spirit, for more. The drive to discover, and conquer is human. Some stay in, and some go out.- I don't think of Conquistadors as idols, their history is a disturbing one, and the result of Desire taken beyond the bounds of decency and compassion.- I have a searching spirit. I'm looking, and have been looking for a long time.

Got To Get Back Home is the end of a search. The hero(ine) went out. Found adventure. Lost their self. Corrupted by the search. Now desiring only to start over. To get home. This was me projecting myself into a story. I am not the character, but the character is me. I am not ready to stop. I have more to give. More to offer. I have had moments where I have lost my direction. Where I lost my purpose. Where I was in danger of losing myself. I think I have held on fairly well considering these are treacherous waters.

One of the most interesting arrangements we have done is on Got To Get Back Home. Abe was playing accordion. I did two bass lines with harmonizing melodies. The sound is barren and lit like a desert. I love the jarring and the odd. I love the unexpected. I love when songs exist because they should, not because it's what is expected. This song is unexpected. Don't be afraid to not be serious. Don't be afraid to have humor, it is equalizer of our sanity.

When I imagined getting lost, I thought of where I would go. Going back to where course was lost. To where I would've last known myself. I think it's a pretty classic storyline. To leave home. And the sense of yourself behind. Romanticizing the past. The people left behind, when you are away.

I got into music. Into writing because I had something to say. Growing up with a musical background, gave me a platform to say it. My journey is to keep writing until the words leave me. Right now I'm trying to maintain pace with how fast the songs come.

It is easy to get distracted by other objectives. Temptations thrown in front of our eyes. These are only distractions. Keep the words. Keep the music. That is the good path.

some stranded Sunday
the last day of loss
I thought like melted ice
I thought, like beginning
making a still spark
that was our start
the back seat of a civic
watching the world turn
I thought like turning
I thought, of smiling
cause Sunfall is only our back turning
 so much happening here
I won't understand


*Image source: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/the-conquistador-betty-bohrer.jpg