This is a list of some works in progress that should see the light of day in something like the order they are listed here.
* The Album formerly known as Soy Aqui
This new album differs from my last, Spare Parts, in several ways. The songs were written with keyboards and drums/percussion rather than acoustic guitars, and their lyrics focus on politics rather than on relationships. (To the extent that those two can be disentangled.) The sound relies heavily on electronic music and sampling and is closer to the work I did with the Folk Implosion.
I just got back from 5 days straight in the studio working with Peter Hughes, Andrew Hiller, Louis Landry and producer Scott Solter and 90% of the tracks are now completed. Hopefully it will be finished in a month or two. Heading into the home stretch, I just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the proceedings, which you may read about in the blog on this site and check out by clicking here. There are lots of cool rewards available – demos, songwriting and loop creation on commission, and signed letters written inside books that influenced this project. What kind of books you may ask?
“What is life? It is a process of eating and being eaten.” – Maha Ghosananda
The lyrical focus of the record came out of reading Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel, and has to do with a satirical look at the politics of the food industry. There are songs about coffee, coca-cola, corn syrup, soy, prisons, hospitals, supermarkets, guns, cows, pizza, bananas, Minor Keith, NAFTA, drugs, strikes, aircraft carriers, muzak, Syngenta, drones, Heptachlor, derivatives trading, and so forth. The details were picked up from books like Stuffed & Starved, Empie’s Workshop by Greg Grandin, Silent Spring by Rachel Caron, For God, For Country and For Coca-Cola and Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, Inevitable Revolutions by Walter Lafeber, Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow, India Divided by Vedanda Shiva, and the Blowback Trilogy by Chalmers Johnson.
Above is a clip of Raj Patel talking about the soy plantations in Brazil that supply chains like McDonald’s. (Patel refers to Chicken McNuggets as “soy with wings” in the book, because McD’s uses soy to fatten up their fowl.) There’s a song called A Soja E Rei on the record based on what he wrote about this commodity in Stuffed and Starved. If you click on the clip that comes up in the middle of the screen when this one is over, you can see Patel riff on the topic of supermarkets. The lyrics for one of the tunes are based on the great chapter in Stuffed and Starved about the history of these culinary air craft carriers. The way they operate is much more Orwellian than you might think. Did you know that supermarkets do extensive research on the number of beats per minute the music they play should have in order to maximize sales? I’m surprised Pro Tools doesn’t have a prefab BPM setting at the exact level Ralph’s, Shaws and Publix prefer, one suited for the kind of music you hear during this great scene from the film The Hurt Locker:
Another source I read while writing the songs was s a novel called The Chronicle Of The Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau. It chronicles the downfall of a neighborhood of vibrant outdoor vegetable markets in Fort-de-France, the capital of Maritinique, at the hands of supermarket chains that came into the area after the former French colony became an overseas department of France in 1946. It’s a good example of the broken promises of nominal decolonization. When I lived in Paris as an exchange student in 1991, it was the first time I had ever shopped at an open air market on a regular basis. It was awesome. I almost never went to a supermarket during the 6 months I spent there – but I almost never went to street markets anymore once I got back to the US. It was a lot harder to find farmer’s markets and CSA’s in the US in those days than it is now.
* Gnawing on the Bone
Basic tracks have been recorded for this new instrumental album, which was originally conceived of as a collection of acoustic guitar instrumentals in the vein of John Fahey and Derek Bailey. Dennis Callaci of Shrimper suggested I make a record like this after I sent him a tape of instrumental guitar pieces. His original thought was to include it as a second bonus CD packaged with the reissue of Pure Night mentioned above, so I wouldn’t feel to self-conscious about measuring up to Fahey’s ghost or perhaps those of solo jazz records by folks like Anthony Braxton. (And you thought indie labels didn’t do A&R!) But then I decided to do it as a separate record because I wanted to make a slick music video for it with Hype Williams based on the following clip I found online:
I watched the whole thing – but I never got my 5 bucks, which the person who posted this on youtube promised to pay to anyone who watched this clip to the bitter end. Oh well.
* Pure Night Plus
This forthcoming CD will compile the first releases I put out on the Shrimper label, including:
Pure Night – originally came out vinyl LP in an edition of 750 copies.
R.I.P., D.I.Y. – originally came out as a 7″ 5 song EP, (or “EB” as it was misspelled at the time!)
River Boat / Into the Sunset / Six Shooters & Canyons / Bandit Kitty EP – 4 song side of a 7″ originally released on the Roadcone label. Other side of original release featured songs by Sandra Bell.
The Same River Twice – this second part of the 2 CD package will feature a re-recording of my first release on Shrimper, the Stars & Songs cassette, which itself was a compilation of two tapes I originally released in tiny editions of less than 40, There’s Stars in You and Songs of The Trains and Rivers. Many people told me that these original tapes were sometimes inaudible, which came as no surprise since I recorded them on condenser mic boom boxes when I was in my late teens.
* Cutting on the Dotted Line
This is a collection of songs I wrote around the time that The Folk Implosion were meeting with different major labels after Dare To Be Surprised came out. (Thus the title.) I wrote one of them, I’m In It For Love, while looking out over the Santa Monica pier from a room in a hotel where several scenes from the film Get Shorty was shot. When we arrived at our meeting with Interscope, I told my partner’s wife I’d written a song called I’m In It For Love that morning, and she said “but there’s already a Shania Twain song called that!” I figured I’d wait to record my version until folks had forgotten about Shania’s.
I never got around to recording these songs in the late ’90’s, even though I successfully lobbied the label we ended up signing with for the right to make solo records for folks like Shrimper et al while under contract to their parent conglomerate, appropriately named Universal Music Group. Our lawyer explained the legal department’s resistance to this idea the following way: “the way these labels think is, once you sign with them they own your ass.” I got a different answer from Tom Whalley, who said “Is it some indie thing? Then I don’t have a problem with it. In fact, I think it’s a good thing for the Folk Implosion. See how easy it is to be on Interscope?” Solidify the base while moving to the center: sounds like the Democratic party.
I did use to play songs like Strong Signal, Cutting On The Dotted Line and Patent Leather live in the late ’90’s, so anyone who remembers those shows better than I do might recognize some of the songs on this record. I did a very short “tour” with Mia Doi Todd around that time, playing shows with Smog, the late Elliot Smith, and the Mountain Goats in Chicago, Boston, New Haven and New York, during which I pretty much played this whole record. At the end of the one we played with Elliot, (on the eve of yet another record company meeting,) Lou came up to me and said, “you should have saved those lyrics for us!”
I’ll probably get around to recording this record last because I’m more keen to work on songs I’ve written (relatively) recently. But at some point when I feel able to channel a state of mind I was in 15 years ago, I will try and translate these songs into ones and zeros.
All of these releases exist in demo version, but it will take me awhile to record the final versions. In addition to these records, I am working on a memoir tentatively titled After Hearing Zappa In The Womb, as referred to in the “About” section of this website. I may be posting short excerpts from this project in blog form as time goes on. Until then,