Ok, so this list of comments is designed to spark some conversation, and let you know a little about what I have been thinking about for the past 18 months. The rules are, I type these comments while I listen to my CD, and when the song is over I have to move on to the next song. As always, if there’s something you want to discuss as a result of these notes, please feel free to email me: email@example.com
I feel like so much music- electronic, rock, etc is just
so safe and boring. All these corporate “underground” rock
bands are so predictable; you never have anyone actually doing what their
media images project that they do. There’s been a death of decadence
in music, which I think extends to something we’ve lost in our culture-
our ability to go wild. Also, rarely do you hear something so loud and
rockin that you just say “wha tha fuaa…” with your mouth
hanging open. THIS is what I’m looking for.
I was trying to do all these things with this one, but at the same time, I knew that this song needed to provide you with a bit more of a break, and a bit more of a musical challenge after “Walls”. Also, I did this right after everyone started spouting off about the Grime thing, and I do like these weird off-kilter beats.
Ah, the Yes guitar solo… This part reminds me of seventies
hippies in a fake Scarborough Fair setting… banners hanging from
an oak tree… Oh, and that’s me playing Harmonica. I play guitar
(sort of) and some percussion on this album as well, which is a first.
Anyway, to me this song is made by a band. Not just one
guy, because I tried to write the guitar parts, bass parts, drums, and
keyboards so that they could be played by a band. Of course, I have to
do this via samples of bits and pieces, but either way, it’s the
same. A song is a song. Also I wanted the melodies on this song to be
like a Cars track- really simple, but effective, using an economy of notes.
So anyway, I saw Laura’s name on this list and knew
her just a tiny bit and decided to ask her if she would collaborate. I
suggested it should be about Peel, or at least the idea of radio. She
agreed, I made the music, and we met in NYC. We (well, mostly Laura) wrote
the lyrics and melody extremely fast and recorded everything in about
3-4 hours total. I am so moved by Laura’s generosity and this track
really touches me when I hear it. I get teary all over again even after
hearing it countless times.
About halfway through this one, I wanted to do something
artier, like walk the listener outside… and this is exactly what
I did with a cassette recorder. But this goes into this funny steel drum
synth solo. Obviously people have made a big fuss about me being the sample
guy, but I consider my usage of samples more akin with what the art-world
calls appropriation. Appropriation is more about using a pre-existing
source for it’s historical, social, political, emotional and subjective
value. Anyway, for this solo I grabbed the midi files from Bloody Well
Right by Supertramp online and then cut it up and changed around the voices.
I think this is a new idea in sampling. Not merely based on actual samples,
but on appropriating musical ideas.
I knew I wanted to have a true saxophone solo on the album, somewhere, and I asked Chris Sattinger/Timeblind to drop by and do the job. Really, he’s a monster on the horn even though he wouldn't admit it. Then, I processed it, cut it up, etc etc, and Andi Toma from Mouse on mars is to be credited with making it sort distorted to sound like a trumpet there. He did that in the mixing process and it really works.
I have to say a bit about this keyboard counter melody that
runs through the second half of the song. For this, I copied the bass
line from the fantastic song ‘Dreamweaver’ by Gary Wright,
and then I took this bass line, moved it up 3 octives, and then adjusted
the chords to this new song. So is this sampling or is this musical appropriation?
The result is something removed from the original, but if you know this
pattern, it leaves a reference.
Maybe I should also say a word about Gerry
Rafferty who I was listening to a ton when I made this track.
He’s another unsung Am Gold hero, and a really amazing songwriter.
If you listen hard you can hear a bit of his big hit “Baker St.”
For some reason, my parents seemed to only love bands with
“&” in their name. And one of these was Blood Sweat &
Tears. This is cut up from about 3 of their songs, and cut with more stuff
to expand it. Anyway, BS&T fucking rock man. They were progressive
in a very grassy way. You always see them in corduroys. This is some how
related to why this is called War Photographer. If songs were people,
then this would be a late 60’s war photographer with thick dark
hair and beard, draped in olive and khaki photographers gear.
And then we get to the one intangible, unpredictable idea in music that you find by luck: the catchy melody. The Germans call it an ‘Ear Worm’ and this idea I really adore. What better way to end a record than with a long, catchy, but experimental ear worm? I think all great albums have at least one psychedelic freak out section, and here it is. That voice in back is actually Marionetti reading from his Futurist manifesto.
Now we’re at the end. When I hear this part, I think it’s just a party. We’ve come such a long way, and now we’re celebrating. We’re all friends, we’re tired, but still excited, happy to be rocking, we’re cutting loose, savoring it. We know we’ll have to start all over again in a few days, more work, more ups and downs, but for now, we’re here and we want it to last. Evil doesn’t exist anymore, except for the world. The great optimism and pessimism of our lives wrapped up in one.