As is our policy, we took Sunday off.
(Oh, if you’re just logging in at work, after the weekend, check out the entry below, Nov 14: Shiznits and Gizziggles, if you want to see multiple pixx of In-Studio Action.)
I spent the morning yelling “ROCK AND ROLL!” with Coco, which is what Coco and I enjoy doing in the morning. She’s grown up a lot; of course, she used to pronounce it ROCKITY ROLL.
Then we went, “Sshh!” and whispered, “rockandroll rockandroll,” and then I would say, “Sine yo penny on the runny kind!” a la Pootie Tang, and play gimme-five, gimme-five.
Coco is my guru.
I ate a Tempeh Reuben at French Meadow, on Lyndale, as I have for the past five days in a row. Then I went to see Sideways at the Uptown Theater; brilliant. It’s good to see that filmmakers are still paying close attention to American Life.
Fabulous score, too, by some mystery man named Rolfe Kent.
Then I came back, talked album theoretics with Dan over Phillipine chicken with olives, and watched a DVD of Dig!, which is a compelling tale of rock and roll rivalry and self-destruction. Highlights: Zia from the Dandy Warhols, second sexiest woman in rock history (and whom, once in Portland, I passed up the opportunity to hang out with so I could go back to my hotel room and do drugs), and Joel Gion, the endlessly charming and lovable tambourine player (seemingly little more than a very compelling, hilarious stage ornament) in the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Joel Gion is now my rock and roll kinky lord of darkness.
But I must confess: I’m not a fan of either band’s. The music just sounds like 60’s revivalism to me. So to hear all these dudes proclaiming these bands genius and the-last-real-rock-and-roll-act puzzled me, and made the film disjointed and odd, from my point of view.
Overdubbing vocals in the morning. Then, post-lunch, drums, drums, and drums.
One of the best things about working with Dan is that he likes to hit the studio in the morning. He’s got Coco, his child, so he’s up at cartoon hours anyway; I’m up by seven, and we’re working by 8. It’s heaven. At other studios, I have to wheedle and cajole to get the engineer to show up at 10 am.
There’s something more productive about the morning for me. It’s partially the closeness to the dream world–I get up and do my dream-journalling, and the creative mind snaps awake, I like to pounce on it. When I’m at home, they’re the most fruitful writing hours.
It’s also the light–the fantastic morning light. I like it better than dusk; there’s a purity to it. And I like the way I sing right after I wake up.
So we tracked vocals in the morning. Eric came over in the afternoon to do a couple more songs; he was heartbreaking and impeccable, as usual.
At one point, Dan had a suggestion, so he said: “Try _______; just for shiznits and gizziggles.”
Except Dan is new to the world of appropriating Black American slang, so it came out more like, “Shiznizznizznizzshizzes and gizziggizzigs.”
I said: Please never say that again unless I have a tape recorder rolling.
ps–I took the camera into the vocal booth with me, and shot these pix by holding my arm out at random and clicking the button while I was singing the takes.
More fun with the Mystery Cover.
We tinkered with various parts of the Cover Song. Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. Did a bassline. Dan played it. I asked, What are you going to play? He said, “I imagine the whole song will require only four notes.”
He did a take, and I said, That sounded like at least six notes. Andy Thompson (yep, the same guy that drummed with me in Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis about a year ago), who was there doing a little mousing for us (aka engineering) concurred.
“Calumny! Lies!” Dan exclaimed. We laughed. “I’ve been reading Mutiny on the Bounty, and that kind of language is seeping into my daily life.”
Fantastic drumming made the day.
Eric Fawcett came over and ROCKED THE CORPOREAL PLANE. He did a track on “Looking at the World,” and a cover tune that I will not reveal the title of just as yet. What a good guy.
We talked about the beard he wore when he played SNL with N.E.R.D. He regrets it. Dan and I strongly objected to his regret: “But you looked like a skater Levon Helm!” I exclaimed.
We tried a bunch of snares, which all had groovy names I can’t recall. One of them was “the Tube Lug,” so named after its tuning or tightening mechanism. We didn’t end up using it–we found a nicer snare–but I do regret not being able to say, Great snare sound on “Looking,” huh? That’s THE TUBE LUG.
He complimented me for Soul Coughing and it made me anxious and weird. I don’t do well with compliments. Particularly about something so long in the past that I feel so little connection with it (although I spose I do feel a very vital connection with a few of the songs, the ones I wrote alone in my room, and the moments and cirumstances in which I wrote them), I feel as if it were a different man doing that music.
I have such a complex about Soul Coughing, such a need to be on par with that work, and to be a vital artist–I feel that I’ve stayed away from the major-recording world for so long, it’s really an advantage, those that instantly turn up with a d
Backing vocals, and more guitar, guitar, guitar.
Amy Jennings came over and did some harmonies on a couple tunes; “Madeline,” and “I Hear the Bells”–on which she did some fantastic calls-and-response. We sat on the couch with a guitar, going over the tunes, which gave me gooseflesh; I haven’t sung harmony with a woman before, what a wonderful feeling.
Amy is, incidentally, Mason Jennings’ wife. Mason went out to meet Rick Rubin in Los Angeles recently, and, upon learning that Mason had tried meditation but had little results, Rick Rubin sent him to a transcendental meditation teacher for four days. An 82 year old woman who had been to India, in 1967, at the Maharishi’s, with the Beatles. She gave Mason a mantra, which he spoke aloud once, and is forbidden to speak aloud again, and must keep a secret from everyone else in the world.
She’s not expensive, and I’ve been itching to find a holistic psychedelic experience; maybe I’ll get her number from Mason, go out there and seek her tutelage. She’s not expensive, oddly for a Beatles-associated meditation teacher in Beverly Hills.
We tracked some 12-string guitar on which the low strings had been removed, leaving only the high, chiming ones; Andy Thompson (the drummer) came over and did some mousing for us, sorting out some of the big ringing KERRROW rock chords on Sunkeneyed.
It was Day of Guitars.
There’s a guitar solo–replacing the Jay Rodriguez saxophone solo, which many of you have heard on the much-Kazaa’d bootleg of the rough mixes, sigh–on “I Feel As If I’m Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” that we spent hours pruning and editing.
Back in New York, I listened to my two favorite guitar solos in the Universe, “You Really Got Me” and “Stairway to Heaven,” and figured out that they didn’t stray far from certain licks/motifs; they were almost like long parts, with liberal variations. So I sat at my home computer and played a bunch of licks, just jammed solos, and then strung them together in ProTools, cut ‘em up, rejiggered the licks into something like a story.
It sounded like shit–I mean, recording-wise. I’m a hapless engineer–the ProTools revolution is a tragic development for me, as everyone’s producing these superslick home recordings and mine are pretty laughable, crude. An interesting effect, given my artlessness at crossfading, was that you can hear the abrupt edits if you solo the solo. It sounds quite freaky and compelling. You can’t really hear it when it’s embedded in the track.
Also at home, I cut and pasted this one riff of Jay Rodriguez’s, a spiralling, weird, Coltrane-y ornament, into a punctuating, recurring bit; I typed in its title as “Spazzy Heraldic.” We kept referring to it when layering the guitar solo in–“So this lick should start at the entrance of the Spazzy Heraldic, right?”
PS, another favorite solo: Bob Quine’s (RIP–man, what an incredible talent that guy was) on Lloyd Cole’s “What Do You Know About Love?” But I was too lazy to track the recording down when doing pre-solo-cutting research.
Then Dan and I plugged my iPod into the stereo and did more listening: Jay-Z “You Must Love Me”, AC/DC “For Those About To Rock”, Henry Thomas “Bob McKinney” and “Fishing Blues”. In a discussion of the beauty of butt rock, Dan told me tale about two guys in Fargo who took him on a joyride in a Camaro, imploring him to pay close attention to the art of a certain Canadian band. Dan said, in mid-story: “What’s that band that Geddy Lee’s in?”–!!!
We cut these big huge AC/DC chords on a Gibson SG on “Sunkeneyed Girl.” Big fat ringing power chords. We’ve got Eric Fawcett, the drummer from N.E.R.D. and Spymob, coming in to cut drums tomorrow; we want to step the song up into Jungle territory.
Here I am in Minneapolis again.
I’ve been here so often over the past year and a half that coming back doesn’t seem unusual at all; it’s like waking up from a dream, and here’s the real world again. Familiar.
As ever, the theme: scary and wonderful. We’re in the home stretch. A relief, and a fear of the big unknown.
We didn’t do much with the first day: I had to get up to fly at 5 am, so I was pretty fragged, and the first day back is usual more theoretical than tactile. Dan and I talked, then went to lunch with a notepad and talked, then came back, sat in the studio, and listened to Frou Frou, Regina Spektor, Ibrahim Ferrer, Will Oldham/Matt Sweeney, Low, and talked. We made lists; wrote up a rough sequence; figured out the guest players we wanted to bring in. And talked.
Today I fly to Minneapolis to start work on the record again.
We’re going to be done before the end of the year.
I’ve been working on this record for nearly four years–two years writing it, eighteen months recording it (whenever Dan had time to spare, flying to MN and doing a few days, a week or two, whatever)–and the prospect of completion is exhilarating. Letting go of the process–being done–on the other hand, is pretty scary.
I remember reading that Marianne Moore had revised a poem forty years after its original publication. You’re never done; at some point, you choose to let go.
My excitement was unusually literal in my dreams last night. I had to wake up at 5 am to get ready to fly–I kept dreaming I was waking up at 4 am, too early, going to some weird dream-world hotel lobby affixed to my apartment and bumping into old friends and movie stars. When the alarm rang and I woke up for real, I was well-practiced for it.
Wet Hot American Summer is the second-greatest story ever told.
Left to my own devices, I’ll watch it in its entireity for the third day in a row. The person I’m spending my Sunday morning with wants to watch the Food Network. The FOOD NETWORK. It’s like the network of beigeness. Also, I just don’t get watching people eat better food than I’m eating. “Hey, that gazpacho looks great–maybe I’ll pretend I’m eating that, and not these here bran flakes!”
There is something about musicians; at some point we all transition to this phase of food obsession. Still: she’s websurfing on her laptop right now, as I type this, and she says, “Hey, look at this!” She’s reading a Food Blog, and is eager to show me a posted photo of a Chicago-style hot dog.