Feb 27, 2013

Pilot In The Sky, Out of the Unknowing

I won't give you up
somehow I've taken more than you'll allow
when I think about it, I can't live without it
destiny don't matter much
just an end no man can touch
pilot in the sky
reflecting light

Lennon once described God as "a concept by which we measure our pain." I have a different view of it. If you were to make God a concept, some keep it a fact and that's ok too, I think the concept would be a complete measure of all things and experiences, pain, happiness, boredom... Sometimes I rely on faith, when things seem bad, and in that sense I understand Lennon's statement, but God doesn't have to be relegated to only our hardships. It can be if we want included in the best part of our lives, the mundane parts too. So I would say God is a concept through which we measure life. If you believe in God, and if you don't too, God could be the totality of all things, in which there is nothing that is not under its umbrella, so there would be truly no division. All God, No God same thing, a name, a reflection.

I think here I should mention, that Pilot In The Sky, was a group write. We came up with the chorus in the studio. Everyone shouting out ideas. It really is a group Hacienda + Dan song. So I can not give you a definitive story of it's writing process, each member will have a different prospective of it's origins and meanings, and this is more about what Pilot means to me today. Also I will mention that group writing is a lot of fun, though sometimes trying. I think there are a lot of moments where you can hear different personalities really pop out. Abe did an amazing piano performance through out the song, and Jaime's drums are so tasteful. Myself, for the most part, tried to keep my bass simple and out of the way. Dante's vocal performance is very unique and full of character, and if I remember correctly Dan is providing a very psychedelic ambiance on the wah-wah guitar. Overall it is the song we spent the most time on. Trying to get the feel right, and it is oozing with vibe.

God and religion are touchy subjects for me. They are, to be honest, ones I don't completely feel comfortable writing about. As part of my make-no-stance attitude of rock music, I feel its best to leave those topics to other artists. I don't think there is any shortage of religious based music in the world and Pilot in The Sky isn't by any means a religious song, but just a song that could be interpreted that way.

Recently I have had a lot of change in my life, and it has led me to a state of constant contemplation, so that is the way I'm reading this song. I imagine everyone has periods of intense ups and downs, people seem to be very dramatic creatures, so I won't say that my life is unique in this, pardon me while I keep vague, but the intensity of my feelings do not seem to be part of the average daily experience. By far the most intense change being the loss of my mother who passed away a few years ago. This change forced me to look at the world differently, look at myself differently. I began questioning a lot of the beliefs I had. I feel a lot better having gone through my personal interrogation, and those questions crept up into the writing of this album. So though I didn't start out or intend to talk about some things, they ended up coming out of me. I think Shakedown is by far the most spiritual album we done, and I am happy with that. 

I've always been a little bit skeptical of religion, partly from experience and partly from my love of science. I would consider myself a skeptic about most things, and I consider a line about Destiny with that sort of distance: don't matter much, just an end no man can touch. If something like destiny/planning existed, than there is no escaping it, so why worry? If it doesn't, we still know- well as far as we know, things only happen one way and it's unchangeable. No one can go back and change the past, to add to John Lennon's list of "don't believes" I add: Time travel. The future is made concrete by the present, out of all the choices there is one course of action taken. So plan/no-plan happen with the same result. To believe or not only changes how I perceive the events. Am I in charge? Am I capable of acting? Or am I destined?

These are all really exciting questions and ones I will continue to think about till the day I am no longer able to at all. The chorus speaks to me because it is the way I view the world. A lot of questions, no answers but punched-up with a healthy dose of determinism. No matter what way I look at it, I think it all comes down to our actions. How we live and how it affects others. God/No-God, Fate/No-Fate comes to a personal belief, but it's the actions of those beliefs that create the consequences of our lives. I'd love to know how you guys feel...

Pilot is one of many vague-morphing songs. A song I know is telling me something, even if I can't quite put my finger on it. The lyrics are as searching as I am. I will come back to it in a few years, months, days and have a different outlook, and I think that's beautiful. Maybe that is the greatest thing about music and religion. In the mystery, out of the unknowing, everything is possible. Anyone can project on to it, and pull from of it innumerable meanings. I try to understand something, and find out the only thing to really understand is myself.
in a worn out two-room shack on empty floors,
I think of you
in vast supermarket lines of  tedious measure,
I think of you
in deepest suburban holes of sterile nothing, where I think the saintly would not go
you were already there
waiting in runoff alleys, desperation corners and pavements clawed with jagged nails,
I think of you
in smiles covered in cellophane-sheen like high-rise towers and super complexes,
I think of you
where i found there is no such thing as an empty inhalation,
to know I'm never not taking
you were already there


PS. I've always been more of a My Sweet Lord guy:

Feb 20, 2013

A Natural Life or Speak Like A Horn

I threw a melody to the new morning sky
It lifted through the street faltered and died
This place is not for you, this city's rotting inside
I picked up pieces carried her home
held her tight, reset the bone
told of places, where wild melodies roam

There are some who are born to live in cities. People who thrive on the numbers, who glide on asphalt. Whose hearts beat with the flow and hum of traffic and speak like horns, the only way to be heard. Going hours without seeing the sun, maybe days. It is possible. I'm not speaking against them, or modernism, or technology...though they could hear the words with a choke in their mouth and a bit of guilt throbbing in their chest, and I wouldn't try to deny them the feeling. But I am a man of the fields and wild. I live for solitude. It's where I get recharged. It's where I get inspiration. Jaime pointed out, that Natural Life is a song where a world is created. The song sounds like it's name, it sounds like the lyrics, making it a very complete picture of the open country of home. If you've seen our instagram you could check out what I mean.


In the Natural Life
Where it's sunny and bright

I find inspiration in my home, the chaparral. A borderline desert of short oaks and cedar. My dad calls them trash trees cause they're not good for anything really. Only the mesquite is really good for cooking with, and a lot of those have been taken already by previous inhabitants. The cedar does give off a nice pollen perfect for heavy seasons of allergies. We also get cactus by the acre and anything that can tolerate 100+ degree summers and about the shortest winters imaginable. Fine with me, that's about all the cold I can take. I guess what I'm saying is there is as much good as there is bad even in the natural world, but what I find to be inspirational, and what I can't get out of the city is volume and tempo.

The chaparral is quiet enough and slow enough to hear the music that already exists around me. It is everywhere. Old songs. Wild songs. Strange songs with the discordant sourness of death. Dark songs painted in cold isolation. Sunset choruses, and verse falling like rain and drying in the limestone. This is not some idyllic harvest land, but just the way it has always been and will always be. People didn't invent music, we invented rules and patterns. The same way we can find images in clouds, music is inherent in the universe. Songs played for millenia, as ignorant of us and we are of them. The city doesn't give me that. The city is rules and patterns. It is a scream to me, and requires a different ear to pluck out its songs.

Listen to a live version:

Natural Life is not about the songwriter, but a protector and a keeper of the music. In an era where ownership is value, it's hard to say I don't really make music, but truthfully I find it. It might be time to admit there are some things that can not be owned. Somethings we have no basis to claim as our own. Amazingly it is technology that is allowing us to see the continuum in one frozen flash. All of history contained in one source where we can see that art/ideas didn't just pop-up out of nowhere, but emerge from an evolution of thought that is occurring all around us. Luckily, I don't have to go far to find it. This is something inherent in wildlife. The chaparral doesn't just exist on it's own. It wasn't invented or planned, but was inherited. It is a genealogy on to itself, tracing back to the beginning of beginnings. Music is the same.

There was music before and after me, and would have been fine if I never decided to participate in the first place. It is another completely independent genealogy. But also like the wild, it is fully accepting. Music may have an indifference, but it will not turn anyone away. I am completely free to try my hand, to move inside it's line, to participate. So just because I do not own or claim it, doesn't mean I am not apart of it, or vital to it. Just like any single plant, animal or organism, any song, group, writer, can exist in the landscape and even change it in drastic ways. I can walk outside, and be reminded that. The world barely notices me, but also waits for me, continually living and singing. We are simply free to join in whenever we want.

Eaters of the Dark
waves lap and fall
bodies turning
pile and fall
what does it mean to be young forever
Who wants to be an eater of the dark?


*Photo from: http://musicofnature.com/chaparral_concerto/

Feb 13, 2013

The Modern Savage, All Songs are Windows

I've got no thought for building
it's always much to dull
each window i look thru wanna tear down to clear blue
I want to get back
How she passed and made me
with her perfume charms
I finally woke up past neckties and hair cuts
I want to get back

This song is about two faces: violence and its mirror, creativity. That is to say, we have the ability to create, and by Law (Cosmic and Newtonian) we have the ability to destroy. Every structure made, including art and song, can eventually be a form for imprisonment. That is why I try to reinvent myself, to escape. To put on war paint, and hide in the fringes. Sometimes I ambush myself, drag me to a dark corner of thinking, and make myself see the fire.

my heart is racing to what we are

It's a scary idea in the human world. Violence is an unwanted appendage of our animal-ness, no longer needed by an evolved humanity. Some look at it with the modern curiosity of a wisdom tooth or appendix, but it still turns up in every newborn. I have no answers or excuses about it. I make no statement on its value in excess, only to say that it is. Lately, when I watch the news it devastates me to see one ugly half of a beautiful balance repeated over and over. And it wrenches at me. I have to remind myself it is only half, and perhaps most importantly I have to turn off the news.

There are varying degrees and definitions of violence, and I wanted to explore writing about its musical sense as an expression of my own work. Savage is a song about writing. Some music builds on the past, and some is born reactionary and battling against it. I feel as a writer, I have to fight against my past work, my laziness. I have a tendency to repeat, so I make an active effort to revolt -make it new. But even trying to change is a pattern I don't want to fall into, which is why I'm always second guessing myself. Any construct is a window of how the maker views the world, and all songs are windows.


Fortunately there is a way to overcome the urge of destruction. The other face, creativity. Making something. Committing. Building. For this song, the turning point is Love, a woman, but it can be anything. Nature, Emotion, Etc... The Muses. Something strong enough to wake up our thoughts. Something to make us see the world in a clear way, even momentarily, and suddenly every action is in alignment. This is the attractive part of our instinct, but they are the same. They are natural. Somehow in that alignment we realize all the things we used to hold on to (neckties/haircuts) were the very things strangling our creativity- I would really like to know if anyone else has felt this- and for that moment of inspiration I can commit to a prospective of my world, and from that joy, make something.

The moment, for this song, came to me from the title word, and as soon as I had it, I knew where I wanted the song to go lyrically. Savage is a wonderfully loaded word with so many images conjured, but to me it reflects the uncivilized. What Joseph Campbell described as those things outside the circle of our campfire. The fear created by seeing ourselves as an other. The scariest thing about witnessing horrors and violence on the news...for me, is recognizing that horrible acts are created by people, people like me. It would be more tolerable to see devils, shadows and monsters, but I see people, foolish people, and I can try to distance myself by giving them labels, giving them reasons and excuses, statistics and categories, but we are all only people acting out, the way people do. I realized the connection of the two, and that the very impulse that gave us Bach and Liszt, is twin to the impulse that gave us every horror- I don't need/want to list them.

let's be Savage, gonna sing our song
let's be Savage till the feeling's gone

I don't like to make many stands on current issues in my music. I like pop songs, not lectures. Savage comes from the feeling of participating as a citizen in our times, not as a direction. Which might be contradictory sounding, cause I do sing Let's be Savage, but I meant the phrase to be a guide into the self, not out to others. I have enough trouble working on myself to worry about trying to change others.

If I could make a statement, I would like people to turn against their own ideas before pointing fingers and getting on the various soap-boxes. It would be beautiful to see people turn inward and question where our impulses, both creative/destructive, come from. To find our Self, to peel back the layers of civilization and experience, and rediscover what it means to be a person, is what I meant about being Savage; however, this is the view from my current window.

there is a sound so desperate to exist
it plagues inside every crack and twist
soaks in the brain and turns around
to find itself, solemnly sitting down.
to understand something so unsure
accept you are as raw and impure
live or break at anyones command
it is in you as in the sound

well, is there ever really change? I can't tell
a different face to occupy
a different place to dwell


Listen to Savage

p.s.: congratulations on The Black Keys and Dan for their recent Grammys

*War dance in the interior of a Konza lodge photo from: http://blogs.spencerart.ku.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/kansas-indians-dog-dance-18221.jpg

Feb 6, 2013

Shake Ya and The Pain of Coming Down

Nature's sun, why don't you come out
Why don't you feel good, yeah you know you oughtta now

You say that you love me,
but you're just too high

It's time to shake ya, it's time to feel bad
Just make a smile between your open eyes and teeth
This world's been telling you just what you ought to know

You say that you love me,
but you just don't know what you gotta know

Lyrics are digested bits of days, remolded in some imaginative lobe-factory during life. I want to tell you about a few of them over the next weeks. I started with Shake Ya, cause it is my first song. Not the first time I put words to music, but the first time it was recognizable as a form. (Imagine several lumped up abandoned mud-brothers to Adam). I was sixteen when the words came, and it took a few years and several tries before it had usable legs.

By the time the song was recorded it stood completely on its own. It's filled with jokes to myself, and a story. (in truth every song on Loud Is The Night is imagined as a complete vignette, every character is different). Now, I'm not sure if the actual story is necessary, but there is more than just me now. I can say this song is not about cough syrup, but i did love the commercial.

The idea was to tell a story with only the amount of detail necessary for me to understand it, then sonically fill in the blanks with mood as setting. Fortunately I think that's what is best about the song, even if the meaning is hard to decipher it is easy to feel... maybe that's what dayquil picked up on?

They were right, the song is about getting better, even if things have to get worse first. The pain of coming down. I don't know why my brain thought this was a good subject to start with, but that's what it fed down to me. Somehow I found myself at the end of a conversation at the beginning of a career.

I've played this song an unknowable amount of times, (live/record/practice/in-shower), but it gives me something new every now and then. I am in love with the sound of the final version, Mr. DQA did an awesome job of producing the track.

You can Listen Here

the word is a bell
I was awakened by a thought:
crashed among immediate tides of youth
slipped under boundless depths of turning
lips ready to reveal smoke-rings of unconscious confession
a birth verging on stillness
breathing slow cries of life.
any can hear, but no one else is moving
I can keep this one tightly to my chest

Though the whole thing was written quickly. I didn't hit me all at once that I had a song I liked. It was a slow couple of days of singing to myself. I don't know how it is for anyone else... there is something terrifying about writing a song to be handed over. I'm still getting used to it. Sometimes I feel like I never will, I've grown to trust my band, and producer, at least enough that my possessive feelings are only momentary. But I felt I had something, and for the first time, wasn't embarrassed to play the song for other people.

There is even some amateur behind the scenes you can see too: Here, A good look into the studio. A bit of Dan helping out.

This song, though written early and before I had a solid idea of what we were going to be, is one I turn back to when I think of what Hacienda's sound is. Sparse, but not barren. Detail with atmosphere. I think every song should be a story, and every element should be used to tell it. I'm glad Shake Ya can tell something more than the words alone, which is why it is a song.