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.
* Pure Night Plus
This forthcoming CD will compile early analog releases that were never released digitally, either physically or virtually:
Pure Night – originally came out on Shrimper as a vinyl LP in an edition of 750 copies.
R.I.P., D.I.Y. – originally came out on Shrimper 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.
Stars and Songs – First cassette release on Shrimper from 1993.
* 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.) It’s a collaborative project with producer Scott Solter and over a baker’s dozen guest musicians, including longtime Shrimper pal Peter Hughes. Most recently, we did a session with improvisational trombone player Jeb Bishop, and are steadily mixing away. There’s a lot of sedimentation of tracks that are tricky to balance, from saz to oud to telecaster to bass clarinet to trap kits to samples to leslie cabinets so it’s been an extended process. I will be releasing this album under the moniker John Davis & The Cicadas, in keeping with how I bill live shows I play with a band these days.
“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.