The heartbreak of last summer was the unfortunately premature passing of Silkworm's drummer, Michael Dahlquist. A drummer of stunning power and taste (this from a late starter!), he was also a hell of a nice guy. I didn't know him well, but he seemed to handle every situation with the exact right response--even me happening upon him on First Street in Seattle as he took a smoke break from work. (It wasn't completely random; we'd had a discussion after the SKWM show in Pittsburgh the previous September. But it was close to random, and he'd handled it well.) Other meetings were warm as well, and his fine humor comes through well in the SKWM tour diaries. If you don't know Silkworm, now's the time to get acquainted. What a beautiful band.
So. When doing a tribute to a loved band who will never come back, one weighs every decision. Even before the bad news, I was having trouble deciding on a course of action for this cover. Time went by, and I'd figured I'd have enough time to finish something, until at some point I figured I'd missed the deadline. The I heard from Ike, who put the project together--there were still a few days left before mastering, and he'd like to have me involved.
OK, so a quick triage suggested that I abandon some of my intended covers ("Insomnia" and "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" for example), and I ended up concentrating on "Shitty Little Yacht." The riff in the recorded version is too similar (for me) to the band's cover of "Ooh La La," so I just dispensed with it, with the thought of "what if Bedhead covered Silkworm?" Well, it wouldn't sound like my results, but at least I got the thing to happen.
Over a few days I worked on it, putting additional guitar lines on (three total), and doing my latest vocal trick of blending a crystal mic with a typical dynamic, which manages to add some top end to the voice. I slowed the tempo down just a hair for this cover, but that (and the long end solo) stretched it to the 6-minute mark. I went through several attempts at the end solo, but ultimately went with the first take, which was just supposed to be a scratch take. Oddly, all the other attempts ran out of ideas too early.
After I'd done this tracking, I went back through the drum tracks and changed patterns a bit throughout, and in a couple places nudged drum hits off the grid, so that they'd match with the guitar. This is sort of the opposite of what often happens in digital recording, in which the human-played tracks are often nudged to match the machines, but in this case I wanted to keep the fluidity of the time in the guitar. In retrospect, I should have nudged drums throughout, as they get a bit tedious and mechanical in places. One last change was that I didn't like my initial backing vocal--the performance was good, but I recorded it entirely through the crystal mic, so it had that "telephone" effect, which is sadly overused and rather cheesy. I re-recorded the backing vocals, but wasn't so fond of the results, and I ended up blending the re-recording with the initial crystal-only take.
Not perfect, but the end solo remains one of my favorites on record. You can hear it for yourself by checking out the tribute disc, which is actually two full CDs for $8. Only a thousand were made, so act now. Proceeds go to two charities in Michael's name. There are some fine, fine performances on this set, I should say, and it's an honor to be in such refined company.
My main musical co-conspirator and I have finished mixing one of the pieces we've worked up for the new project. It has a name, but I'm inclined to wait until some release mechanisms are in place. It's interesting in that we're not playing these things as such. There's some raw sound generation, some edits, but the secret weapons are the PowerBook, Sound Sculptor II, and BackToBasics. A Web site devoted to the project will appear shortly. And I reserved the domains! How 'bout that? Not all domain names are taken. Who'd'a thunk?
Last weekend was particularly productive for the new project. We've got a respectable length of material. We need to add some parts, but it's close.
These aren't tunes, exactly. They're more about sound than they are about music, which means throwing out a lot of ideas about "playing." I'll have more detailed descriptions when we've mixed.
My main musical co-conspirator and I are about half-done with a new project. You'll be the first to know.
Most of the film soundtrack from years back can be found at "http://www.mp3.com/maurice/" in a funky rotation somewhat related to my whims. My section of the site apparently went live in June, and I've had a number of downloads. No listener input yet, but a couple of "fellow musician, please contribute your songs to our business/benefit/etc." solicitations. Check it out.
A number of us have gotten the promotional "103 best artists you've never heard" mp3 CD, and, um, if that's the best they can do, I should stop editing myself so damn hard.
Started recording again with a longtime friend of mine I used to record with some years back. It's interestingly different, since the levels of our skills have changed over time, and our method seems to be different--we used to turn on the tape machine and go, but now we're doing more pre-planning. It looks for the moment like the pieces are going to be somewhat more structured and complex. I can't, however, describe what it's going to sound like--already it isn't sounding anything like what I thought it would. Arrangement, though, looks like two guitars, possibly voice, and maybe a few other things thrown in for variety. It's entirely possible that you'll be able to hear some of this eventually.