NEW ALBUM HIGH CUBE DRIFTER OUT NOW!
Waaaaaay back in December Viral Conspiracy release my EP “Intona Remorae". People dug it which is interesting considering VCR (as they;re known) usually releases louder, faster, noisier and angrier stuff than this. Yet there it is. In side you will find lengthy notes on each song. I’ve included these here because, well, I can. So dig in:
These songs that make up “Intona Remorae” were born from destruction. In early 2018 I suffered catastrophic data loss, losing much of the last 18 years of music. With the past wiped clean but for finished songs I found myself first grieving then freed. With none of the loops, samples, beats or any other bits of sound and noise I usually drew from I was no longer bound to my habits. So I sought to devise a small set of songs within a fairly rigid framework. I do this often, actually, even before the data loss of 2018. And as is often the case when I dove deeper into the tracks, the limitations I imposed began to bind and constrain rather than focus and energize me. Once loosened, new aspects of the tracks emerged, exposed not because of changes in anything external but only internal. My self-imposed rules were few but firm: each track used roughly the same arrangement of an 808 drum machine, an organ simulator, new samples for atmospherics and each track’s length was not to exceed nine minutes. Of course by the end of the EP, Herbivores, shows I threw that rule aside and let the track blossom to its full size.
As far as instrumentation went, I chose some basics as the foundation. A simple 808 kit formed the root fo the percussive elements while a Hammond organ emulator provided much of the melody and threnodic parts. Audio Damage’s Basic was used for bass and much of their effects for reverb, delays and such. Sonic Charge’s SynPlant, with its extensive morphing capabilities, also figures heavily into the tracks. I sought to keep a large amount of space in each track while at the same time have enough occurring at any given moment so that hopefully the listener is engaged while not entirely aware of the amount of time passing.
The title itself is a nod to the great composer, painter and futurist Luigi Rossolo. While not expressly imitating his methods or concepts, the EP definitely embodies the idea of evolution, moving forward into new sounds and modes of conceptualizing music. The lowly remorae, a suckerfish usually found attached to a larger sea creature, might seem an odd thing to name check in the title. That is until one realizes that remorae means “delay” in Latin, as suckerfish were thought to slow a sailing vessel down. In fact their aerodynamic design allows them to adhere painlessly and easily to their hosts without dragging unless their numbers grow too large. Once considering this, the title becomes “delay sounds” or “delayed tones” which is perfect.
The simple howl of a lone train whistle across a dark, barren landscape. Morning in a rust belt city, the citizens awakening hungover, hopeless and determined to carry on. The drones remind me of Richard Skelton, the enigmatic artist who leaves instruments out to the elements then records them. While I did that with none of these - it’s all pretty much done “in the box” i.e. the computer - I find a kinship in the wide open space of his compositions.
I wrote this during the worst pollen attack of my life. My home was covered with a blanket of yellow powder which infrequent rains did little to remove. At one point I had to sequester myself in a room with an air conditioner and wait out the resulting allergy attack. Only a strong rain cut the powdery foe down. This track bears some of the urgency and sluggish movement that I felt. Wanting it to end but being unable to push my body’s ability to fight without prolonging the allergen’s attack on my system. So within the song, the drums are sparse but insistent. The synths murky and elusive or forceful and harsh. Much like sitting in a room on a bright sunny day wishing you could sleep off the pollen bloom.
The screams are those of my daughter from her infancy, run through the magnificent Quanta plugin. Once manipulated they become unnerving and unholy, like ghosts hovering up high in the cathedral of the mind. The frenetic ice of an arpeggiated organ against the lagomorphic swirl of the bass synth and the heavily processed stabs creates an atmosphere of liturgic reverence, a large space wherein piety and control collide. The word Troglodyte refers to everything from a species of cave-dweller (the name literally translates as “cave goer”) to an ancient seaport in Egypt. Here the title refers to ancient ways of being and the need to rise beyond them, breaking the chains of dogma, forcing the dead hand of habit and going beyond.
The track evolves slowly like a lifeforms, sounds collapsing and reforming like the waves of a primordial ocean beating against a shoreline of newly formed volcanic rock. Over time the rhythms coalesce into a shambling, loping unity under the undying rhythm of the universe as portrayed here by the ever present 808. Imagine ancient primates come down from the trees to stare up at the night time heavens, their minds at the cusp of sentience as they struggle to comprehend the vastness laid out before them. While many cowered in fear at this display of dark and lonely astronomical power, perhaps a few maintained their gaze and push consciousness forward a few inches each time they did so. Evolution is a slow, persistent process where life finds a way no matter what.
As I announced the recent release of my latest novel Tribal Malfunctions a friend said they admired my prolific output. I was humbled and gratified. Also puzzled to a degree.
But they were right, for sure. As of this writing I’m about to finish issue 3 of my comic Bunnyhead which I write, draw and color myself. I’m figuring out which songs are going on two albums due out in the beginning of next year (2019). I’m working on issue #4 of Bunnyhead and have also written the script for a new comic about a gangster. Oh and I started writing prose for the first time in a long while last night and it looks like that will become a full blown novel.
Yeah that’s kinda prolific.
Also kind of insane.
I guess you could say I’ve learned to tame and use my muse instead of it being the other way around. I’ve long held the belief instilled in me by Mary Robinette Kowal that your muse isn’t in control of you like some flighty spirit; your muse is in fact a muscle that needs to be exercised and developed to work best for you and not you for it.
And I’ve done that to a degree. If the rest of my body looked like my writing muscle I’d look as ripped as Matthew McGonaughey in Magic Mike. I’m working on that but anyway I’ve got a solid writing muscle and know how to use it. In fact I daresay I’ve gotten it so well-tuned and adjusted that I don’t need to work it as regularly as I used to in order to make it work. I’m not saying I’m Tolstoy up in this piece but I’m pretty good at banging out the words as needed on time and within the limits prescribed.
While currently not professionaly published I have self-published five novels to date - in addition to the comics - and written at least two dozen short stories (They’re all making the rounds and my Pulitzer and Hugo acceptance speeches are constantly being finetuned and updated). By my own estimation that’s put me at over half a million words. And since I’ve been doing this writing thing hardcore for the last ten years…
Well I’m not going to call myself a master per se but let’s just say I know how to put a sentence together.
But back to the prolific thing.
As I said I’ve gotten to the point where I can write as needed. The muse does strike though more often than not I must sit and work storylines and plotholes out like knots in wood or lumps in gravy. I keep notes on story ideas and works in progress so they’re readily available when needed. I don’t need the muse to srike but when it does I go to work with quite a bit more charge and fervor than usual.
When the muse does strike hard it’s weird. For instance this new story I’m working on came to me as the germ of an idea from a single line. From that line I saw an image, a scene I could write about. I let it run around in my head for a bit before I felt I could write in a few sentences after it. Once I started that first line the next couple sentences came with a little coaxing. Then the first paragraph was done. The next paragraph came a little easier. And the one after that a little moreso. Before long I had a page and was digging where I was headed. 3,500 words later I had the beginning of a new novel. Hot damn!
But it’s not always like that. In fact sometimes it’s a drag.
The best way I can describe it is… Well there’s this movie from 1971 called Cold Turkey with Dick Van Dyke about a small town in Iowa that quits smoking. And there’s this one scene where DVD is at the breakfast table chewing carrot sticks to fight off the urge to smoke. He’s listening to the radio and this show is on and - well here’s the link to it. Just watch and listen.
So that’s me and my muse: Dick Van Dyke banging his redhead wife to keep from smoking! I never said I was classy (By the way that’s Bob & Ray playing the radio annoncer and guest!). But it really illistrates my image of how it works when a story or idea grips me. It’s with an almost grim determination that I have to do my duty to my craft, get up off my ass and go write or draw or what have you. I love it, I love the feeling of being inspired enough to create while at the same time it can be a little daunting. There are times when I’d rather be doing something else or need to get something else done but the story or comic is beckoning. And I know that despite training, working, developing and flexing my muse I really can’t do anything else but give in, let it take me upstairs and do with me what it needs to do to get things done.
Maybe I should take up smoking?
Nah. The muse is stronger without it.
Now if you’l excuse me I have to go make up a few thousand words about an imaginary thing.
The good folks at Igloo magazione were kind enough to publish my lengthy ramble about how I made my latest album "Invisible Soundtracks." If you're interested in process please check it out. Ah, hell, check it out anyway!
And here's the album if you haven't heard it. Guess you've been living under a rock lately? Sheesh!
I am so stupidly thrilled to be added to the M-Tronic roster. If you told me 35 years ago when I began playing with electronics and making music that one day I would release an album on a label in France I would have shrugged and hid from you. That it's a label that has already released some of my favorite music since I began reviewing music for Igloo Magazine is even more amazing.
This album is a big step forward for me as it was entirely recorded in my new studio space Flow Control 8.0. I took on new strictures, ideas and theories as I set out to record these songs and I think it shows. There's a lot more dissionance, a lot more atmosphere and at the same time more focus on melody, harmony and a bit of a slide back to musicianship.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it.