Most nights I set an optimistically early alarm. I don’t know why I always think the following morning will be THE MORNING that I will wake up an hour or two earlier, take advantage of morning peace and quiet, have a cup of coffee, finish a thing or two, maybe do some writing, perhaps even exercise. I always assume tomorrow I will do it and today… I did. Woot! So here I am, sitting in my new command and control center, continuing my preparations for the work ahead, the work of 2016.
What is the work of 2016?
Music. Music is the thing. That and getting my life back into a semblance of normalcy after a significant level of change and disruption in 2015.
One of the things Rhett and I used to do back in The Lavone days was The Naming of the Album. We would decide we wanted to record a new album and the first thing we would do was give it a name. This had a certain logic to it, in retrospect. First, it allowed us to refer to it before it existed. “I wrote a new song for We Don’t Exist, do you want to hear it?” That sort of thing. Second, it gave the project a sort of life of it’s own. It’s such a little thing, but having a name meant there was an album, even if it hadn’t been recorded yet. It was like a vacuum had been created and we now had to fill it. I don’t know how other musicians do it, but this is the way I am used to. I figure it’s equally possible that I could just say “I’m working on a new album” and record arbitrary songs until I had enough of them and then give it a name, but that doesn’t feel right somehow.
When I look back on the albums I’ve recorded, and those I’ve started recording but abandoned for one reason or another, I feel all sorts of different emotions. Back in The Lavone days for every Psychotrauma, We Don’t Exist, or Isotope we recorded, there was a Gorgeous, Blues for Disillusioned Rabbis, From Margaret With Regrets or Eat a Speech that fell by the wayside. On my own there have been several false starts as well. Phantom VII, The Universal Thump, I Sleep With My Hands In Fists, The Low-Res Record, one could even argue that the completed but never released The Message Will Be Kept falls into this category. Titles of projects begun in earnest but never properly completed. Kinda sad but also kinda promising. Like there is an alternate universe timeline somewhere in which those albums exist. There is also an element of nervousness associated with launching new projects because of the awareness that not all things begun are completed.
For the last year or so I have had an idea for an album in my head. It has a title and I’ve been chipping away at it. This may sound silly, but I haven’t got the music for it yet. I have some, a few pieces, and I know they are right, but the rest hasn’t come to me. I’ve been fighting with so many things, home, work, time, myself, and I haven’t been able to do the digging necessary to find the songs yet. But there is a title. In fact, there are three projects I have planned for this year and I’m going to commit them to writing here to make them exist just a little bit more in the world.
Firstly… Back in December 2014 I released a short EP called The Coal Room EP. It was modest in ambition, to say the least. The goal was to record a straight up acoustic album with two mics, live performances, and very little overdubbing. And to do most of it in a single recording session. It worked out nicely. I already had the idea in my mind for my new “big album” when I recorded it. I envisioned it as the first in a series of EPs, each recorded with a different set of constraints or parameters. For reasons that will be obvious in a minute here, I eventually started thinking of this series as the Wolf Pup EPs. I’m planning a series of at least four. None longer than 20 minutes. Wolf Pup #1 was The Coal Room EP. Wolf Pup #2 is going be called New Old Stock and will be another single recording session project, but electric, and recorded on 4-track. I plan to track it sometime in the next month. I’d already have started on it except I’m still getting studio room A configured for recording.
As you can see in this panorama, there is a lot to this room. From left to right we have the stereo, and a kitchenette behind it (you can’t see it, but there is a microwave and sink and coffee and stuff), then we see where it opens up out into the rest of the house (passing through video game central), and near the hanging acoustic guitar, there is the writing desk.
Continuing the sweep the right we have some guitars and amps and a small storage closet and file cabinet, and then in the way back we have the music desk.
Continuing on from there, we have a massive wall of books and then the drums… Honestly, I don’t know what to do with the drums at the moment. They are eventually moving out to studio room B (for Barn) but at the moment they are just kinda piled up. I plan to assemble them, tune them, and set them up out in my shop for the time being because the shop already has heat, unlike the barn. Maybe I’ll just move them when I’m going to record drums and leave them the rest of the time. I dunno. Or I’ll get some mesh heads and triggers. Or I will just play spoons instead. Meh. Drums.
In all seriousness, though, I do want to get some triggers. And maybe some mesh heads. And definitely spoons.
Anyhow, I digress. The room is pretty much physically setup. All the furniture is in place, the electrical things are generally plugged in. The Internet works. The configuration is pretty solid. It’s got a nice vibe. I’m still working on unpacking a few more things and updating software and generally doing table setting and maintenance. Next I’ll start working on testing signal chains, microphones, acoustics, blah blah blah. Basically trying to figure out how best to work with my current configuration of gear and room and the like. Also, I will start digging through my notebooks and voice memos and the rest to figure out what ideas and snippets I have thrown down that I have forgotten about that can be grown into new material. Oh so much to do… And all of it FUN.
I’m intentionally burying the lead here…
So, Wolf Pups. Those are a thing. 1 down, 1 planned, 2 more intended after that. No set time line. But why are they called Wolf Pups? In a second…
The next thing I think is going to happen is recording an RPM Challenge album with Michael Heuer and Ben Ortega over a weekend. That will obviously take place in February (it’s RPM after all), but I don’t know if it’s one weekend, two weekends, one weekend plus other stuff at our respective homes, or if they whole thing will not happen. The three of us have never worked on anything together before. Ought to be sweet.
Then there is the Big Album. I’ve been mentally kicking this around for almost two years now. The title is The Wolf Is At The Door, Let’s Invite Him Inside, It’s Getting Cold Out There. Hence the lead up EPs being called Wolf Pups. I’ve recorded a number of songs for The Wolf so far but I’m being super picky and rejecting most of them. I don’t care how long it takes, I want this to be the album I have always wanted to record. And it will be if I’m patient and persistent.
When I look back over my recording career, certain things stand out as work I’m proud of. A handful of early Lavone tracks, most of The Frog’s Cheeseburger Poodleskirt album, a song or two from the later Lavone era. Since ’04 and the solo thing I have really felt hit or miss about my work. I like most of The Context, Bo Redoubt, and Louder Longer Lobster (which are kind of a trio), but there is a lot of forgettable stuff between ’07-’12 until I did Blood and Scotch/Valentine, which I still love deeply. Since then I felt like A Man Could Get Tired and The Coal Room were solid and had their moments, but didn’t quite hit the level I want to hit. That’s what The Wolf is supposed to do. That’s my goal.
I read that Kevin Shields didn’t record an album after Loveless for decades because he never wanted to make anything that wasn’t at least as good or better. I love that ethic. It’s like the opposite of Ryan Adams approach to just keep cranking stuff out. It’s been a few years since I made something that I was really proud of. OK, so, I have an album name, a couple actually, and I have a place to make these albums, mostly, so I’m going to be out of excuses shortly. And that’s a good thing. New music is coming. Hello 2016.