When I began recording Immolate, I had no idea what I was going to end up with. I didn’t even have a title. Shortly after recording about 5 songs, I began to envision a double-album (something I’ve been threatening for some time now, but always inevitably scale it down to a single album). Side one was going to be “The Calm” and side two would be “The Storm”. The album would then be called “The Calm Before The Storm” (clever, eh?). I had just bought my MacBook Pro and was very excited to begin recording, however I was in the middle of classes at the time and very busy–any time I would spend towards making music inevitably made me feel much too guilty.
The guilt quickly passed and recording began–and oh boy, it took me quite a long frustrated day to finally figure out all the intricacies of navigating Logic Express (the recording software I was using, I’ve recently upgraded to Logic Pro). The first song I recorded using this software was “Descending”.
DESCENDING: from the single “Knee-Jerk” available here.
I wrote this song quite some time ago in reference to the ‘Pride’ parade. I always liked this song and always felt like it would initiate a new album, with it’s slow singular acoustic guitar picking, and fairly simple but atmospheric melody structure. I envision a slow motion parade of people ‘parading’ down a street but everyone looks very desolate and despondent. I was beginning to learn the software with this one, and got really excited with all the different keyboard effects I had available to me. The choir and atmospheric synths you hear were the last thing to be added to this tune. Over time though I began to dislike this recording. I don’t know exactly why, maybe I felt like it was too simple and didn’t really pop like all the subsequent songs I recorded for Immolate? I was almost not going to release it at all, but decided against it. There’s nothing awful about the track, for me, it’s just not very memorable.
ATROPHY: from the single “To Make Do”, available here.
The next few songs I recorded after ‘Descending’ included ‘Quiet Life’, ‘God’, and ‘Atrophy’. I came very close to making ‘God’ a b-side, but my partner loved the track so much, and I felt like it was something really different that I kept it on the album. ‘Atrophy’ is a song I wrote while I was drugged out on Xanax. Jamie was gone and I was alone and stressed out, so I took a pill in the middle of the afternoon (I just love the stuff, I don’t take it on any regular basis, but when I do, it’s such a treat). I was inspired to play something on the piano and what I came up with is ‘Atrophy’, a song that doesn’t make much sense but I think has one of the nicest piano riffs. I was hipnotized by the riff, playing it over and over, singing the most soothing melody and inserting words that I felt made sense. I think I decided to knock it off the album mainly because of the opening little bit. I got tired of hearing that “Take me back to San Francisco”. It made me not want to hear the song. I began to skip it when I heard that opening. I guess in hindsight I could have just cut out that opening, but then I felt the song wouldn’t be complete without it. Initially I wrote the song to end with a similar section as the opening, a call-back if you will. But as I recorded it and became engrossed in that riff, I decided to end it the way I did.
HUMAN NATURE: available for free download here.
Shortly after I began recording again, Michael Jackson died. Now, I’m not a huge Michael Jackson fan, but I do happen to enjoy a song or two. Before he died, I thought what everybody thought about him: he’s weird and so far removed from reality that he can’t see the forest for the trees. I thought he was very self-important and way too self-indulgent. After he died, I thought those same things, still do–even after having recently watched the “This is It” movie. If anything, that film just confirmed my suspicions. However, what I did give a second chance to was his music. Now, this is interesting, because when he was alive, it was almost embarrassing to listen to Michael Jackson. Now that he’s gone, it’s as if the ‘living’ legend, the persona that weighed behind the tunes was lifted, and now we could absorb the music in a way that was not possible before. I downloaded his entire catalogue and heard the music for the first time without all the media hoopla that surrounded it. I was impressed. The songs I began to really appreciate that I didn’t really give a chance to, were songs like “Stranger in Moscow”, “Leave Me Alone”, or “2Bad”. The man did know how to write an infectious pop tune and produce it well, not too over-produced, but slick enough to have that pop feel. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he resembles his sister Janet, of whom I am a much bigger fan (in case you didn’t know). The one song I always loved, and continues to be my favourite of Michael’s is “Human Nature”. And so, from the shock of the death of this massive icon, I decided to pay homage to this man, a man that might not deserve homage, as I’m sure he was well aware of his talent and ability. In a way, the homage is more about the nostalgia of Michael, and the enjoyment of his music beyond all the crazy media stunts.
DREAM: from the single “Run Boy”, available here.
With the successful writing of ‘God’, which was predominantly arrangements and samples, I decided to pen another ‘sample-driven’ tune. ‘Dream’ is the result of this endeavour. However, with ‘God’ I drudged up some old lyrics that had been sitting around that I could never successfully turn into a song, ‘Dream’ I decided to write all new lyrics with all new melodies. I’m not entirely sure what, or who the song is about, but I get the sense that whoever I’m singing to, I’m trying desperately to convince them not to leave, and not to seclude themselves away from the people who love them. There is a friend of mine who I believe I am singing to on this one, but I’m not entirely sure, and I don’t think I would ever tell her. This was the hardest song for me to decide to leave off the album. I blame my laziness. I originally recorded the song so that the second chorus after the second verse would repeat itself twice. Over many listens I decided that the double chorus at the end was too much, and made me not like the song. It wasn’t until I decided to release it as a b-side on ‘Run Boy’ that I simply edited out the repeat, and now the song is perfect, and I think would have fit perfectly on the album. ‘Dream’ is also the last original song b-side I recorded before the release of “Immolate”.
I NEED A MAN: from the single “Run Boy”, available here.
There is a record store near my house that I decided to check out one balmy afternoon. As I strolled in, I noticed their massive 12″ single section (of which I am addicted to). As I scouraged around, I found a few singles for the Eurythmics, including the album ‘Savage’, which has my favourite Eurythmics tune on it “You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart”. I brought it home and suddenly remembered how captivated I was by Annie Lennox in the video for “I Need a Man”. She was brilliant, and the song is brilliant. At this point in the recording process, I was still working under the impression that I was releasing a double-album. And if the first side had “Human Nature” as a cover tune, I would do “I Need a Man” for the ‘Storm’ side. I was overjoyed at the gender twist reverence, and how it speaks so perfectly to my issue right now with the growing urgency for perfection in gay men. This song is less about putting down transsexuals, or claiming a misogynous point-of-view, but rather slamming the ‘frou frou’-ness of gaydom that has so many gay men becoming bigger and bigger snobs. Ultimately I was unsatisfied with my vocal performance in this song that I left it off the album, and because I was afraid of law suits, I shrouded it’s existence in mystery.
SAVE ME, CAROLINE: from the single “To Make Do”, available here.
This is the first b-side I recorded after Immolate was completed and released. My original intention for b-sides on the ‘To Make Do’ single was to use ‘Atrophy’ and ‘Descending’. About three or four weeks before its release my friend Caroline Brooks of the Canadian folk trio ‘Good Lovelies’ won a Juno for their magnificent debut album. I was very impressed and honoured to know her that I decided to record this song that I had written for her about 5 or 6 years ago. I have a video of me playing the song in an ex’s house that I house sat for a couple of months one summer. I had actually intended to record this for Immolate, but for one reason or another never got around to it. Awhile ago, before Caroline joined the Good Lovelies, a mutual friend had the idea of making a covers album of all of Caroline’s songs, sung by her musician friends–as a birthday gift. The original intention was to record a cover and also an original song about Caroline. ‘Save Me, Caroline’ is my original for her. The song is about my insecurities in playing music and singing. In the song I ask her to help me know where to place my hands and position my words in writing songs.
SAY: from the single “Knee-Jerk”, available here.
The last of the b-sides, was again, recorded after the release of Immolate, and is not technically a b-side. A month or so ago, I decided to climb through the mountains and mountains of songs I have written between the ages of 16 – 23 that I never recorded, or never released on anything official. I have about 150 songs to mull through, and that’s just 150 usable songs, there are three times that much that I don’t remember how they go, or why I wrote them. Anyway, now that I have this fancy new recording software, I decided to give those songs a chance. My intention is to record them in my new electro-pop style and release a variety of albums entitled: “Those Formative Years” (vol.1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). I have 4 songs recorded now and ‘Say’ is one of them. I wrote this when I was 22. I had originally given it to a musician friend Linda M to use as her song, but I don’t think she ever did. I’m taking it back now. The lyrics are a bit immature, but hey, I was 22.
So that’s it for the b-sides, thus far. Any others to be released on future singles for Immolate have yet to be recorded. Right now, I’m thinking of recording “I’m Losing My Breath” as a b-side.