A six year literary account of the making of People Will Talk.

Words and Musics

I was watching this excellent interview with the amazing Chris Whitley (RIP), who as an aside, is truly one of the greatest unheralded songwriters of the last 25 years, where he talks about certain aspects of the songwriting process.  In particular, he was addressing the creation of lyrics, and I couldn’t help but think about what that process is like for our songs and how it has changed over the years.

He says a couple of things that I really like and identify with- I was comforted to know it was a challenging and complex process even for someone of his pedigree.  I think the most interesting point he makes in the interview is how lyrics of songs are really different from other types of writings, whether it be poetry or prose.  He argues that lyrics- where they come from, how they are connected to the music- stand as a truly unique form of an expression of words.

Essays in a lot of ways are the antithesis to lyrics.  They are a prime example of proper rational thought.  Using words to illustrate an idea and supporting that idea with clear, logical arguments.  Frankly, the clarity of thought reflected in good essays has always impressed me tremendously.

Poetry…poems…they are much closer to lyrics.  Many feel that songs are really just poetry added to music.  It’s a nice explanation, but like Chris Whitley argues, I think it’s much more complicated than that.

The reason lyrics are different from other expressions of words is exactly because of the music they live in.  They don’t exist on pen and paper (even though at one time they may have).  They are truly embedded in something completely different; they co-exist in a sort of dynamic equilibrium with the music they belong to.  As a result you can’t just throw the two (words and music) together.  It’s really a journey of discovery of two parts living in the same whole.  These two parts DO NOT exist independently.   Where A is lyrics and B is music, we are not talking about the application of the linear equation ‘A + B = C’.  We’re talking more about finding the A within the B, and finding the B within the A, and somewhere down the line without knowing it, you have discovered C to exist.

That’s why I really like Chris Whitley’s analogy of painting to songwriting.  Painting, mentally, seems to be a much closer exercise to writing lyrics (rather than other types of writing) because it seems to be a little less rational than many of the approaches of putting pen to paper.  Even if one is creating something fairly straightforward and isn’t delving into the abstract, at some point, colours and ideas on a canvas blend together.  So it would seem that the painter, like the songwriter, naturally has to loosen the reins a bit in order to nurture his creation.

I find it hard to believe now, but I remember many, many years back when I first started writing songs, just how consciously I applied logic and reason to the lyrics.  I wanted lyrics to flow like an essay.  I wanted to be articulate.  I wanted to communicate an idea as clearly as possible.  Yes, I wanted it to be conveyed in an interesting manner and I wanted it to have that poetic quality, but I still really wanted the audience to understand my point.  In my head, I was almost adamant about making sure I was able to communicate the point across.  And so I think I chose lyrics that I thought were more clear and succinct.  Now I think…maturity is a very nice thing.

There is no right or wrong approach to songwriting or writing lyrics, but over the last seven or eight years I have definitely moved more and more clearly to the other side.  I have fallen in love with the world of ambiguity that lyrics can live in.  It’s a world of limitless freedom that has plenty of room for interpretation, and none for deduction.  In the last several years, this approach has increasingly shaped the way that I write lyrics.

Chris Whitley says something similiar in the interview about this.  He talks about the idea of tapping into the subconscious and “automatic writing”.  Again, I felt like I could really relate to this concept.  I think what he was getting at is freeing your mind to really accept whatever idea or ideas come to actualization.  Letting the ideas themselves do the work instead of trying to control and manipulate them with your brain.  This is fully in line with the notion that the song is already there- we just have to release our minds enough to let the discovery take place.  I agree with this concept totally.  Shite, it’s too damn difficult to try and control things.  You have to swim with the current, not pretend that you’re really on land.  I love the idea that by letting go, we can arrive at the truth.

The real benefit of this is that you get truly honest songs.  Even if people may not like them, you can really feel good that you made a discovery.   Too often, earlier on, I would get frustrated with a song and stop working on it because “the words just weren’t coming together”.  It was like I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but it was the words that kept failing me!  No wonder it felt like such hard work.  It would be like trying to paint with the other end of the brush.  Looking back, I feel that early on, at those times, I just wasn’t letting the brush do its work.

I think when you do let the brush do the work, it says whatever it is supposed to say.  If that means you drift into the absurd, nonsensical, or surreal, all the better.  Lyrically speaking, I think some of best ideas are expressed through the most irrational of metaphors.

The other thing this does is it ultimately gives the listener a lot of freedom as well.  Using this approach sometimes leads to lyrics that don’t make total sense or that leave an idea not fully explained.  Great!  I feel like with this approach you can really build a song into a playground for the listener.  It invites them to step into the world of possibilities that has been created by the song.  It gives them the ability to play in it for as long as they would like, and take whatever and how much ever they want from it.  It leaves something to be desired by the listener and spurs them on to make their own discovery.  I think that’s why people turn to music.  If  they wanted something more direct, they can read an essay, or a book, or whatever else.  A song never has to, and often never does, mean the same thing to the listener that it did for the songwriter.  And thank God for that.

Why?  You see, listeners own songs too.  As a music fan, I am terribly proud of and passionate about the songs out there that Im crazy about and what mean to me.  Whether they give me a lift, offer me advice, or just make me want to party, at the end of the day they understand me.  That’s why they are MINE.  As a listener you can truly make a song your own- even if you weren’t the one to create it- just by way of what it means to you…the freedom of interpretation and love of music really truly gives you that right.  There ain’t too much out there that can give you such a strong sense of ownership of something without legal documentation in place.  That’s why music is so cool.

To see the Chris Whitley interview I’ve been referring to, you can follow this link:


Ballad of Sisyphus

Sisyphus. He is an interesting story.

See here’s the thing. I don’t like to write. There’s this introduction by Richard Bach on his book “Illusions” – i paraphrase…he talks about how difficult it is to write- how some thing or some idea swells up inside and tortures him up to a point that finally he must commit pen to paper. Well, that’s romanticizing things- but it’s a lovely excuse.

The myth of Sisyphus is pretty cool. Ever since I first read about it, it made sense. As you may or may not know, Sisyphus was punished by the Gods to push a rock up a hill, only to let it roll back down, so that he may push it back up again. Over and over again. For eternity.

This has been a perfect metaphor for the philosophers. Especially for the existentialists. And frankly, what better existential metaphor than this one to clarify that there is no value beyond the process.

Which brings me to the concept of the album. It has raised questions- why? why bother? what is the point? Record companies have shaped it’s existence. But music lovers have created its relevance.

When I grew up loving music and eventually wanted to make music, the album was the representation of everything you could possibly say in a given period of time. It was more than a statement. It was a completion of an idea. It was IT.

But things have changed much. The music business has changed much. And so, I won’t get into why the concept of the album changed so much. That is a whole other argument. And it’s not important for this one.

My argument is that albums are still important. They are still incredibly relevant.

For a musician growing up as I grew up, making the album was the ultimate pushing of the rock up the hill. It was THE GOAL, for bettter or for worse. And it represented something greater than what you were.

It’s different now. Musicians need to keep up with the times. They have to release a single to know there is an audience. They have to create music for the commercial to ensure the product sells. They have to do anything they can to make sure they can earn a living. And that is the paradox.

The gigantic freedom obtained from being released of the clutches of the record companies has resulted in a legitimization of a music industry that has taken us away from why we existed in the first place . And as a result… the rock got a lot bigger.

Having your say is not a given. Reaching your audience is not a given. Making your album is most definitely not a given- It’s expensive and not profitable.

But the thing is, Sisyphus needs a solid rock to push. As human beings, we always need to be connected to bigger concepts, no matter how many boring celebrity news articles we read. You see, Sisyphus doesn’t want a bunch of pebbles. He needs something tangible, concrete- something we can sink our teeth into.

And so albums will live. As will real rocks. No matter the pace or depth of technology. All of this development will negotiate a heck of a lot of how we interact and share information. But it won’t dictate how we truly change. Only the big rocks can do that.

What's In a Name?

It’s a fair and obvious question we get often- what the hell is a Lickpenny Loafer?? I suppose even some of our most loyal fans are in the dark. That’s ok- what is in a name anyway? Maybe some put more stock into such a thing than is necessary but for what it is worth there is a small backstory. It’s nothing elaborate but there are a couple of small things that did serve to inspire the name.   So here goes.

A Lickpenny Loafer is essentially a money-driven lazy bum.

I grew up hooked on O. Henry. Not the candy bar (although it aint too bad), but the writer. O. Henry was a pen name – William Sydney Porter is his real name. I thought he wrote the most wonderful short stories (still love them) and was enamoured with his writing style and technique. One of things he wrote really well was irony. He wove it in and out of his stories the way a magician pulls elephants out his hat. But perhaps not so offensively.

One of the stories I really liked (and still do) is one called “A Lickpenny Lover”. I won’t bore you (or ruin it for you if you ever come across it) with the plot but it is another one of his best, loaded with the usual charm. I love the characters in it as is often the case with his stories. I really like how he describes the fairly brief moments in time that is their interaction.

O. Henry matured as a writer while living in New York City. Many of his stories were published in something called the New York Sunday Magazine (I think). I remember reading something about him having to submit a new one weekly for which he was paid reasonably. While he may not have been as poor as Edgar Allen Poe, he was at least partially as susceptible to the bottle. So he mostly drank away his compensation. But perhaps more interestingly, while indulging himself at New York’s various watering holes, he would observe and sometimes meet many interesting characters. This is how O. Henry got many of the ideas for his stories. After all, these were the people of the city. Of his city.

So whether he was writing about the sincere stranger and the naive department store girl, or the desperate drifter, or two old friends who’d taken very different paths, or of course the two young lovers who knew the meaning without realizing it, he had created very ‘real’ people, inspired by actual people he had seen and observed, and maybe even like people you and I might have come across and yet not been aware of. That’s the thing- O. Henry knew that EVERYONE had a story.

So I guess that covers the first part. What about loafer? A loafer is a lazy bum.

Choosing to attempt some kind of music career, in whatever capacity, is fairly a long and rocky path. You can’t be lazy. Like any venture into art, you have to constantly try and find motivation and inspiration and stick to what you think you want to say. You can’t be motivated by money, because frankly, there really isn’t much to go around. If somewhere along the way, you can get back a little bit for your hard work, then great. But if its your main motivation, then it yields a short career filled with disappointment.

So a Lickpenny Loafer is a money-driven lazy bum. The name of this band is a constant reminder to us of why we’re truly in this and what it takes to keep going. Hey… a little irony never hurt :)


As you may or may not have noticed, our website has gone through some a reasonable overhaul.  The new version has many advantages.

Let me preface by saying that I think that while internet technology may have come extremely far, the ability to manipulate it, to deal with the back end, still seems to be a skill belonging to a minority.  But I think I’m wrong.  I think a lot of people  know what they’re doing now with websites- we just don’t seem to be included in that bunch.

Let me also say that anyone who actually runs their own website and has the smarts and patience to update it every day and constantly improve their knowledge of HTML code, is a remarkable person.  Man, that shit is hard.  We think, anyway.

Which brings us to the aforementioned changes.  Essentially, we made some changes to our site to allow for us to do two things:

1)  Create a flow of continuous “new” content that you guys can regularly check back in for,  and…

2)  Be able to update and upload that new content with relative ease.

Thanks to these changes we can now do these things much more easily.  With the power to quickly edit the site we will be making the following regular updates:

Announcement of shows, updates on any important news, uploading of pics and video from shows, a whole range of mp3 downloads of sketches and live songs.

Last but not least, the home page of our new site displays an ongoing blog of our developments that is automatically delivered directly into your email inbox (finally, no more manual emailing for us).  All you have to do is subscribe.

Thanks a bunch to Sharif and Faircube.  He is one of the remarkable people I described above.  A shout-out also goes out to our own Todd for helping start the process.

The Important Stuff

As a musician, it’s important to keep playing. That’s what it’s really about at the end of the day. All of the other stuff, marketing and promotion, and expanding your fan base- all of that stuff doesnt really matter if youre not actually working on music. Maybe it doesnt always have to be “creating” new songs- but playing…that’s what really matters. It could mean maintaining your chops, it can be working out new ideas, it can be discovering another instrument, it can be learning a new technique, or maybe just generally exploring another music direction. But you have to play.

Recently, a good friend of mine passed away. His name was Red Shea- he was an iconic Canadian musician and guitarist with a huge list of achievements including being Gordon Lightfoot’s lead guitarist for over 15 years. He went on tours with acts like Bob Dylan and the Band, and hung out with some pretty neat company in guys like Kris Kristofferson and Jack Nicholson. A couple of years ago, our back fence started breaking down and I was approached by the man on the other side of the fence about fixing it…and so Red and I sat down in his backyard, had a glass of lemonade and started talking about music and the rest is history. After learning who he was, I was compelled more than ever to pepper him with questions and pick his brain whenever I could. So the backyard chats became more regular. We were forty years apart- but I can assure you, it never, ever even occurred to me.

I learnt quite soon that it didn’t have to take a lot of work to pick Red’s brain. Red was an ocean of common-sense, practical wisdom. He could talk about anything under the sun, and give you something new to think about in a flash.

He had a lot of interesting things to say about music, the music industry then and now, and what it means to be a musician. He was the first to remind me that despite everything that’s going on in the world, in the music industry, and in my life…if im not playing and im not writing, im not much of a musician. All of the other stuff is only slightly relevant, if at all. When I asked him about his best memories from being in the business and his career, he always said (other than hanging out with Jack Nicholson), “Playing. Playing- that was the only thing that mattered. And writing of course, and creating…but everything revolves around playing.”

Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but it’s amazing how easily we forget. As a songwriter, it’s important to keep writing songs. If youre not actually “songwriting”, youre not much of a “songwriter” are you? I read once in a book of interviews of Bob Dylan, when someone pointed out to him the various opinions of the critics on his latest album, he responded with, “Well, at least Im out there writing songs. What are they doing?” It wasn’t said defensively (this was very clear when reading the full interview), but more matter-of-factly and semi-humorously. And it’s a good point- it’s not his job to worry about what every Tom, Dick, and Harry has to say about his music. He’s imposed upon himself the job to just continue to write and create.

If after umpteen albums and hundreds of songs, this truth is not lost on Bob Dylan himself, why is much of the independent music community full of fresh, raw, and developing artists (us included) at such a loss to accept this? I dunno, maybe it’s point that is only better understood with maturity and stability.

Unfortunately, with the nature of the business changing so rapidly and massively, the new DIY (Do-it-yourself) approach for indie artists has utterly confused and paralyzed many of us. There is no map, much less a compass, and so the most important truths of all are being forgotten. We are struggling mightily for validation – to feel acknowledged and to feel heard. One industry executive told me that before, people were trying to get their 15 minutes of fame; now, they’re focused on already managing their 15 minutes of fame- among 15 friends. What’s worse is that most of us believe that the 15 minutes of fame among 15 friends will translate into something more.

Much has been said about this already, so I wont dwell on it, but the stark reality is when you look at the end goal of being a touring artist who sells enough and makes enough to enjoy a full-time career, almost all of us in the independent music community will fail. It’s a incredible amount of work, an incredible amount of luck, and an incredible amount of work (yeah, I know I said that). Only a few get through to that kind of success, and credit to them.

But what’s the worst part…it’s not that so many of us will fail in that one picture of success…it’s that most of us are forgetting what the point of all this actually is/was in the first place. It used to be that you had a song to sing, and had to find a way to get it out. And so you would learn to play it and sing it wherever you could. Nowadays, the mediums to get music out — the internet revolution, the digital revolution, the myspace revolution, the independent music revolution — have completely overwhelmed an essential part of the process. We are trying to walk, run, and sprint all at the same time…flocking from one revolutionary medium to another to ensure we are on the cutting edge of what is happening in the “community”. Dont get me wrong, it can be a lovely community and an important one, but nonetheless a community of no use if we still havent defined who we are ourselves, individually. Let’s face it- we’re more concerned with how many people viewed our MySpace profile in the last three hours than investing the time and energy it needs to become better musicians and write better songs. And so really we’re investing a whole lot of time and energy into a giant cyber black hole. We’re scrambling from one thing to another to make sure that we dont miss anything- except we’re placing into jeopardy the most basic truths of all! In our search for validation from the business and from others, we have lost sight of the basic requirements and focuses we need for ourselves- to continue to develop and hone our craft, and play and enjoy music! No wonder the public can’t sift through the mess…because that’s what we are- a very, very large disorganized mess of people drifting in and out and of a “music business” with no real sense of purpose, understanding, or direction.

Does this sound gloomy? Well, when you think about the positives- that within that enormous network of people there is an incredible amount of creative energy, drive, and talent – there is much to feel good about. And there are songs…tons and tons of songs, many of which are already good or have the potential to be good.

So youre wondering why I’m saying on the one hand we’re all doomed to failure but on the other hand we’ve got so much potential? Well that is kind of what I’m saying. But mostly, I’m saying, as a music community and as an individual, it’s important to accept the reality of what we are dealing with.

And it’s even more important that once we accept that reality, we remember why we’re actually doing this in the first place- to play, to write, to create, to realize an idea- because, ladies and gentlemen, that may well be all we have left in the end.

If months go by and you’ve forgotten this truth, then slap yourself in the face. Nowadays, I know I try to remind myself constantly. I also think its a good thing for us to do other things to manage the risk and do the work without having any expectations. So many of us are moonlighters and that is a good thing. It gives us options, it gives us balance, and it gives us the ability to create and play music without living in cardboard boxes. I know im so lucky that I have a day job and that i like it and am thankful for it every day. As Red told me, “Just enjoy playing. And challenge yourself constantly. Don’t worry about everything else. It may work out this way or that- but this is the only thing that really matters.”

Red loved his aphorisms. He loved to tell me, “Show me a genius, and I’ll show you a man who work ten times as hard as anyone else”, and “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” He always told me how those people out there whose work we are aware of – the Bob Dylans, the Gordon Lightfoots…even dating back to the Da Vincis of the world…the body of work that we saw from them was just a fraction of what their actual output was. He was very quick to point out to me that what we don’t see- that’s of a volume that’s 100 times greater than what we do see. “Their waste paper baskets are full 50 times over, even for just a short period of work”, he would say. The point is they never stopped playing. They never stopped writing. They never gave a shit if anyone was listening. They never forgot why they were doing this. It’s something for us all to learn from.

Red Shea was a musician and a person from another era, and yet at the time of his death was the youngest 70 year old I knew. He was very active, extremely full of ideas and excitement and he could talk a mile a minute. He was from an era that represented a different generation of music, of values, and of “musical values”. I feel lucky and cheated- lucky that our fence broke and that I got to meet and befriend this great man; cheated because our friendship was only a couple years old and there was so much more I wished to share and listen from him.

My favorite memory of Red, was sitting on his front porch last summer talking about music- he was explaining to me how to work in modes. After a little while we started talking about other things and I asked him if he still found time to practice, to which he immediately retorted, “Oh geez, no i dont touch the stuff”, He went on to explain how his fingers would hurt, and he couldnt practice for as long anymore and he had already played some that day and was feeling tired from it, and on and on and yadah yadah…and then all of a sudden he stopped abruptly and said, “Ill be right back.” He went in the house and emerged with one of his acoustics, and what happened next was sublime. That fine summer evening, I sat quietly on the steps of his front porch and listened to the incomparable Red Shea play his guitar- he played Bach and Mozart, he played the blues, he played jazz…he seemingly played everything and he played for a while. And I just remember feeling so happy sitting there listening to him. It was typical Red- starting off saying one thing and then doing the exact opposite. It’s an hour of my life I’ll remember forever.

Maybe most of all, I’ll miss his wicked, wicked sense of humour. He was sharp, wickedly sharp. One of the lines he’d always throw into our conversations was, “My doctor asked me how well do I sleep? So i said, I don’t sleep too well in the morning, nor too well in the night…and I toss and turn all day.” I’m so thankful for getting to know him – I’ll miss my friend.

You Deal With It

It’s nice to be in 2007.  There is a feeling of lightness now that wasnt there for all of last year.  I know this is no coincidence.  This is directly related to the completion of our first EP.

Im not going to whine or complain.  But I will say it was hard.  It was a hard task from start to finish. If you factor in all of the previous years of work that allowed us to even get to a position where we could even attempt it…wow…it was hard.  But trust me- Im not complaining.  Not in the least.

For one, I no longer have this thing eating away inside me, gnawing at every inch of my body and mind, demanding satisfaction.  My friend once told me, “When you listen to your soul, it whispers.  When you don’t, it screams.”  Well, as much as I tried listening, I guess I wasnt listening hard enough, and it screamed.  Over and over.  It wailed.  It sobbed and moaned, begged and pleaded.  And frankly, it made sick…not just sick…ill.  Songs have such rich personalities- would you ever guess that if you cage them long enough they can turn into monsters?  But now…now, they’re buzzing about like bees around flowers, looking back at us with smiles on their faces.  See the thing is, I know this is temporary- this, after all, is only an EP.  Soon, the rest of the songs will start making noise.  But right now…right now, this feels good.

It feels good to finish.  And it feels absolutely great to be in a place where there is no expectation.  I cant speak for Dev, but I just dont expect anything now.  Really.  And its not that I dont care –  I care very much.  I would love for all of this to open up new doors.  But the truth is I have absolutely no idea where we go from here.  But that doesnt bother me one bit- its exciting.  Sure, anything can happen…maybe we will even get a song played on a college radio somewhere in sudbury…that would be neat.  But the reason that it is exciting is because I dont expect a single thing.  For these four songs, theyve already given me everything ive wanted.

Personally, I learned something really important about putting a record out.  Once its out there, its not our problem anymore.  We already did what we have to do.  YOU suss it out.  YOU figure out whether you like it or not.  YOU decide whether to give it another listen or to put it in the back of your CD collection.  Honestly, you wont offend us no matter how disinterested you are in it, or if you even (gasp) loathe it.  We thank you and respect you for even trying, and the same even if you dont.  Because at least for these four songs, its not our problem any more.  You deal with it.


"It" Is Not So Simple

Nice little story to share.  Steve and I were working hard last night on some of the vocal harmonies for Climbing Trees.  We had tried doing this a few weeks ago but it just didn’t pan out the way we had hoped- they just didn’t sound very good, don’t know if it was the ideas or the performance- I guess, really, it was both.  So Steve called me about a week ago and said he wanted to scrap all of those harmony parts we had previously worked on- in his words, “It’s just not there”.  “It” is the operative word, but is no simple task to define.  Simply, you know when “it” is there.

We tried to take a different approach, leaving alone for a moment those parts that were posing such a  challenge.  We decided to take a crack at the last part of the second chorus, leading into the outro- a pretty signicant part in the song in terms of the energy that has been established in the song.  It actually comes right on the heels of the apex of the song- so its pretty loud and proud in its purpose of showing the listener to the way out of the song.

We had already found a harmony that sort of worked, but it lacked a drive or kick, or whatever you want to call it.  The part itself is fairly high in the register, so I was using a falsetto.  We agreed to try the same part again and see if it worked.  Well it didn’t work.  We knew it had to have a different attack, so I suggested maybe singing it full-throat (no falsetto).  So I go back in, the track starts and I start to sing…and I sing for about three seconds and I stop and I say  I can’t do it.  It doesnt feel right for some reason- Im just not able to open up my voice.

So when I go back out and talk to Steve and start telling him, it’s not working, he looks at me funny and says “well, let’s just listen back to these first three seconds”.  We hear it back and as soon as we hear it, we both KNOW that is the sound that is required- but Im too chicken-shit right now to do it!  But the thing is, we both KNOW- so I go back inside in a hurry and Im literally calling myself every name in the book to snap myself out of it.  Im telling myself, “Stop being such a wuss. Sing the @%$@%$ song!”  For a singer there is a time to be wispy and floaty and soft, but there is also a time to completely let go and wail.  Let me tell you it takes a lot of confidence to wail, and have it sound good.  Last few times in the studio, I just havent been able to do it like I know I can.  So I give a final “$#%@# it. Im doing the thing”, the track comes on, and I belt it out.  It’s a small part, but the significance is enormous.  I go back in and Steve looks at me in that same funny way with a big smile on his face and says “Where the hell has that guy been?!  Where has he been?! That’s what Im talking about”.  So I nailed it, and I cant tell you how good it felt.  Most importantly, it set the tone for next four hours as we motored through all of the harmonies for that song.  Right about now, Climbing Trees is basically done, ready to be mixed.

Sometimes it takes just a simple, seemingly insignificant moment like that to return inspiration and get you back on track.  It also takes a special producer.  We took advantage and enjoyed a nice moment together and good things happened.  “It” was there.  Just goes to show you, with the creative process, if your heart is not in it- it will always come up dry.  But when you dig deep, sometimes anyway, you are witness to a tiny bit of magic.

Obtacled People

Labour of love- Is that what they call it?  Things of this nature- labours of love.  I suppose that is what it turns into…easier to look back upon that way.  While you are in it, it seems like anything but.  For the most part, its a labour of pains, labour of frustration, labour of resilience…well, I won’t go on.  Bitching never got anything done.

And dont get me wrong- things are moving along.  But we have had some setbacks, and we are now looking at a release date for the EP sometime in November.  For right now, we are in a period of very necessary limbo, and the most important thing for me and everyone else close to the album is to be there for my close and wonderful friend.  The challenges of making this album are piddly compared to the obstacles he has overcome.  I’ll explain all that to you someday.

But it will get done, eventually…it will get done.  So I’ll leave that topic for now…

Why don’t we try something totally, or at least semi, off-topic?  I hate Top Ten Lists- they are every bit as inane as all of Letterman’s other jokes…but High Fidelity made top 5 lists kind of cool I think.

But ranking things is so stupid, so Here are 5 people, in no particular order- and they are non-musicians, as that list would be far too easy, not to mention long- who I’ve been quite inspired by for their commitment to what they did and what they believed in.  Ill just list them and give you a brief discourse on why I think they are cool:

Andy Kaufman – Andy Kaufman was one of those people that anyone who “got” him could just go about and call him “andy”, as if they knew him on a personal basis.  There is a beautiful childishness about him, that made him completely captivating to those he touched.  It got so, you just couldnt take your eyes of him, anticipating what might happen next, even if he was doing absolutely nothing.  In a business built on the safe approach, and reaking of banality, Andy was the unpredictable genius.

I like that he wasnt funny to everybody.  I like that he wasnt funny to me all the time.  There are many times that I didnt find what he did outright funny.  But he was completely and totally uncomprimising.  He made his life in the business of comedy, and approached it with a renaissance painter’s commitment to art.

Just watch the old clip of him and Jerry “King” Lawler feigning bloody battle on Letterman.  It’s quite a storyline that he engineered in high secrecy with his wrestling counterpart.  He knew how to take the whole world for a ride- and it didnt matter if anyone ever got the joke.  He always stuck with his comedic sensibilities- even if no one was laughing… so even if you weren’t laughing, you were inevitably left mesmerized.

Ed Wood- Here was a guy whose story can break your heart.  But at the same time, could also lift it.  He is unarguably the worst film director of all time.  Which of course makes him one of the best, evidenced by his massive cult following.  He had no basic sensibilities on how to properly make a movie, consisting of appropriate camera shots and a properly flowing plot.  Check out Glen or Glenda (my favorite), Bride of the Monster, or his magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and you’ll see what I mean.
Poor Bela Lugosi died in the making of Plan 9, and Ed Wood thoughtfully replaced him in the movie with his own dentist, ensuring that the man cover his face with his own arm in the rest of the scenes of the film, so as to not give away the switch.

But his passion for film-making was largely unparalleled. There is a beautful scene in the Tim Burton movie about his life (played by Johnny Depp), where he meets his hero, Orson Welles.  In that scene you can see this unwavering faith in himself that is validated upon this chance meeting with his biggest inspiration.  It’s like at that moment, he realizes exactly who he is, who he was, and who he will always be- a film director! The faith is totally real- the belief is unshakeable.  And yet the talent was completely non-existent!  It’s quite moving- shows you even the most incapable of people can achieve their dreams if you want it badly enough.

Steve Nash- I just have to put this guy on this list.  Why do we not celebrate this guy more in Canada?  Why is he not a true National hero?  Why dont we care enough about what he has done?  He is a Lilliputian in a world of Gullivers, and he is recognized two years in a row to be the Most Valuable Player of the greatest basketball league in the world, consisting of the greatest basketball players in the world.  Skinny Canadian kid from British Columbia takes lone scholarship opportunity to 2nd Tier American College program, makes the NBA, and becomes the 2-time MVP of the league???!!!!  Are you kidding me???  I think it stands as the single greatest athletic achievement by any Canadian in history, OUTSIDE of HOCKEY, to date- more than Donovan Bailey, more than more than…well i dont know what else is there? More than any of those skiiers, or figure skaters, or curlers, or whatever else we do (no disrespect to those guys and gals).  Now I know Im probably really starting to sound like Bill Simmons but Steve Nash should have a Canadian city named after him.  I’d move there.

I just love how hard he worked to get to where he is.  And I love how balanced and intelligent his approach is to his sport, and more importantly to life.  A remarkable athlete, a remarkable Canadian, and a remarkable person.

(I could have almost as easily put another athlete on this list, Roger Federer, but Nash won out…barely…for now anyway.)

Voltaire – I think this guy was the first true modern celebrity.  He was a great thinker, writer, activist, etc., but most importantly, he really did it all with style.  He had that aura about him that people wouldnt see for another 200 years…not till Winston Churchill opened his mouth, I think.  It’s one thing to do what you do well.  But it’s another thing to share it with the world in a way that combines class, wit, and a free spirit.  It inspires people.  So, he’s my favorite of the many free thinkers and philosphers of the Enlightenment.

Vito Corleone – Ok, I know he is fictional.  But I just saw Parts 1 and 2 the other day (for the 20th time) and I was reminded of just how cool a character he is.  He is the man.  Whether being played by Brando (Part 1) or De Niro (Part 2), two of the absolute greatest screen actors of all time, he is the ultimate person in control.  He is decisive but not rash, deliberate but not slow, clear-minded but not lacking depth, and above all he knows who he is.  This is the part Michael Corleone wrestles with so much through his own development.  This is where Michael fails- and where his father succeeds.  Vito knows the reason he does everything, and he executes his decisions with precision and clarity.  He may not be a good person in many ways, but he is crystal clear on what his values are and where his loyalties lie.  He does not waver.

Michael, in contrast takes on too much.  To his credit, he experiences much more of the world.  He takes a roundabout path to get to his calling (education, serving in the army, before taking over the business) as well as starting a family (his first wife in Sicily is accidentally murdered).  Vito’s path is much simpler, but I think he makes it so.  There is a scene in Part II where Vito’s friend describes the beautiful girl on stage, and Vito says “She may be beautiful to you but all I see is my wife and son”.  He is crystal clear on where he stands and lets nothing interfere with that clarity.

Michael is presented with many challenges, more difficult than what his father had to deal with you could argue.  But I think that he brings many of them upon himself.  His definitions of family, business, and lines in the sand, are obscured and clouded.  He shows some of his weaknesses in the way he plays the Hyman Roth situation.  These prove to hurt him later.  He does not protect his brother, Fredo, the way he should have.  He should have kept him close and not out on his own in Vegas.  He also does not protect Frank Pentangeli, when he should have, I think. There is no doubt that he is equally decisive as Vito.  But he is vengeful in a way that Vito is not.  He is vengeful to a point where he partially comprises who he is or who he wants to be.  This leaves him lost at times (in Part II he asks his mother, “Is it possible to lose your family?”), and ultimately broken (this is revealed to us in a conversation he has with Kay in Part III).

But Vito is unshakeable.  He is a rock.  He mayb not be a good person in many ways.  But he knows exactly what is important to him, and on that he never comprimises.  Incidentally, I also like that he doesnt talk much.  It’s amazing to see the way both players (Brando and De Niro) express so much more with their faces (Brando when he sees Sonny’s body, and De Niro when Signor Roberto comes to beg forgiveness) than they would ever need to with words.  Anyway, I have no idea how I got this deep into Godfather analysis, it is surely time to end this ramble, but there you have it- Vito Corleone is the picture of cool.

It's That Whole Yin Yang Thing

Rock stars are becoming businessmen.  Businessmen are becoming rock stars.  This is the generational dynamics we are now guided by.  I am not opposed to it.  I think that vocational flexibility will define the economy of this century.

The basis of what we understand to be age-old concepts- home, family, school, education, job, learning, marriage, lover, and success, religion, and God- is changing rapidly.  The lines are becoming more blurred.  The concepts more vague and blended- often thinner.

The challenge for this generation will rely heavily on the individual to sift through the wreckage…to navigate through the maze and find the cheese.  Little evidence remains of the existence of the societal herd, to guide and protect.  Sure, there are still many conventions we can still align ourselves to.  But their signifance, while not always disappearing, is almost certainly changing.

When people refer to the level of advancement made by generations, the characteristic they inevitably use to differentiate past from present is pace.  The world, it seems, is always moving faster, faster, faster.  Everything is much faster now than it was fifty years ago.  And surely, everything will be that much faster fifty years from now.

What then will still be slow?  What is slow?  Einstein said, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that our technology is surpassing our humanity”.  I believe his statement, even at the time he said it, was stating the obvious.  Technology is fast.   And humanity is slow.  Cars, planes, food preparation, and the time between meetings will always be faster.  Wisdom, hope, compassion, and love is timeless.  That is why humanity is slow.  Technology is a pack of Molson Cool Shots designed to get you as drunk as possible in the most efficient and economical way.  Humanity is a bottle of wine, either opened for just the right occasion or possibly still cocooning in an earthen cellar.

But to call technology bad and humanity good, is boring, thoughtless, and most of all, lesson-less.  It is the wrong conclusion to draw.  Technology has changed our lives.  In many ways for the better.  People have the potential to do a lot of things now with more ease than have ever done, and also have the possibility of opening time up for the things they never thought they could try.  The challenge of this generation…the challenge of sifting through the wreckage, or finding the cheese…will be to strike a balance between these two shifting currents.

Everything has changed.  There is no denying the element of cyborg-like conditioning or programming that has been added to our education.  The way that we now learn and develop our ideas and habits relies immensely on the way we engage and manipulate technology.  And so it in turns engages and manipulates us.  But humanity is also much the same way now.  In generations past, the growth and maturity of our human qualities was a given.  Our biggest mistake is take that growth for granted.  The environment now does not clearly foster these developments in individuals.  It is up to us to be actively engage and make time for our humanity.  This may appear to be a sad thing- but I believe that is simply evolution.  Unless we all want to make like Thoreau and live in Walden Pond, we are better off accepting the presence of technology in our lives today, and finding a way to live as humans alongside it.

Follow Through

You hear about it all the time.  Even the swing of a golf club or tennis racquet: no matter how good your stroke is, your shot will be worthless, unless you follow through.  It is like that in many other things too.

This weekend was good.  I’d even say really good.  I’d say that the songs are about 60 – 80 % done (with Bonded & Climbing Trees sitting closer to 80, and Sweetest Things and The Haunt on the lower end).  The drum tracks, bass, acoustic guitars, and lead vocals are all done for all of the tracks.  Hell, listening to Bonded makes me feel like it’s just good as done the way it is.  But I know this is the part where we have to be that much more careful.  It is far too easy to sit back and listen to the rough mixes over and over till you’re used to them and feel like you’ve accomplished something.  And by “accomplish”, I mean “finish”.  These songs are NOT finished.  I have to remind myself.  I also have to pinch myself when I listen the rough mixes- I’m really happy with the way they sound.  But that’s just why I have to remind myself that we are not done.

Overdubs.  They fill songs out.  They expand their personalities and give them more colour and flavour.  They are layers of sound embedded with little hooks to catch unsuspecting ears.  “Bed” tracks (bass, drums, etc.) serve as the foundation, the very base for a song. You can’t put a roof on a house without first having its structure in place.  In many ways, overdubs are what contribute to continually bringing people back to the song.  They are paint on the outside walls, bay windows to invite more light, the charming weathervane on the roof, and the big, awkward tree out front, that for some strange reason, you wouldn’t dream of chopping down.  They help provide atmosphere and convey mood and emotion.  They can be a simple harmony on a verse, or a powerful electric guitar buzz over the bridge, or a surprise piano melody trilling over the chorus.  They come at the later stages of the development of a song, when many of its base character traits are established.  The purpose of their existence is to complement those character traits.  They don’t give character to a song, – I think, if your song lacks character, I’m not sure how much scattered overdubs will help**- they help bring out its character.  They enhance its character.  They help make a song better.

So, with the work that still remains, I recognize that there are many routes to go.  The stage that we are at now, opens up more doors for these songs, and accordingly increases the number of decisions that have to be made.  That can be a bit scary, because there are so many possibilities.  But we know the songs well enough to know what will work and what won’t.  It’s just a matter of trying a few different things.  Steve’s set of ears, and numerous sound-creating skills will no doubt be a boon in tackling this matter.  His gifts will come in very handy when experimenting with the atmosphere, mood, and emotion we want when recording some of these overdubs.  With all our ears and minds working, and various instruments at our disposal, I look forward to dressing these songs up a bit more.

But we must also know when to let go.  The songs already sound great, and we dont want what we do now to overshadow all of the great work that has been done.  Plus, in our situation, the momentum that we have right now is more valuable than six extra months spent getting the songs EXACTLY as we want them.  If there is a charm to first recordings (and there are many), it is that they are wrought with imperfection.  These imperfections give songs an authenticity that is difficult to replicate when you have all the time and money in the world to record an album.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

In any event, I know that we have to act quick and effectively to be able to follow through on the achievements of the weekend.  Sitting on this too long will hurt the momentum I never thought we’d get back.

** (from above) There are some who will disagree with this, and that is perfectly legitimate.  Songwriting is not a science, and the argument can be easily made that building a song with random sounds gives it a different structure and character all its own.  Sort of like building a house backwards.  In any event, the house analogy does not hold up.  In this case, it is easy to see why writing songs is not like builing houses, and the same rules do not always apply.  So for simplicity’s sake, let me limit that my comments on structure to apply to our songs, and for this album.

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