Friday, February 6, 2009

The artist's dilemma - Tell me, working version #2 (With MP3)

On Tuesday, I was back at Martin's BC studio, recording drums for three more songs on 10 Neurotics. I've mentioned earlier that Brian Viglione (The Dresden Dolls & WORLD/INFERNO) has joined my band and is working with me on this album. As things have progressed he's turned into more of a collaborator then I've ever had before in Black tape for a blue girl. At Martin's, we got amazing stuff "on tape," and I got myself a dilemma.

( Image by Paul Trapani | Model: Vivian DeMilo)

Tell Me You've Taken Another working version 2
These are my guide vocals, they will be replaced by real vocals. Some people are missing this point. I am NOT singing this on the album, these vocals are just there so the vocalist can learn the melody.

I'm having stereotypical artist-neurosis about "Tell me you've taken another." It's one of those "be careful of what you wish for" scenarios. I wanted to take my dirgy song (originally written in 1998 for the As one aflame laid bare by desire album) and turn it into a song that would feel at home on 10 Neurotics. Lyrically, it's a perfect fit - it's a song about a guy with a special fetish/neurosis (this guy enjoys being cuckolded), but the dirge was out of place. In my mind's eye, I saw that within that slow, moody piece (that Oscar sang wonderfully) was a song, waiting to come out. (You can hear an earlier work-in-progress MP3 of this song, here) I felt that within this source material existed a more accessible song, if only I teased it out of it's hiding place.

What I've ended up with is exactly what I set out to create, but I'm frightened. Very frightened. Like Dr. Frankenstein when he realizes the creature is alive.

I've played the track for friends and fellow musicians and they're all really excited about what they hear. They feel it cuts a new path for Black tape for a blue girl, taking one of my songs into a sonic terrain that I don't often tread upon. And what's wrong with that? What's wrong with a song that has a hook and a groove? I mean, there's NOTHING WRONG with that.... but is it me?

I was recording yesterday with Gregor Kitzis, Voltaire's violinist. He created a really lovely three part violin harmony on the waltzy chorus of "Rotten Zurich Cafe," a Blacktape song I wrote for Nicki Jaine's voice. After recording, we were listening to rough mixes of tracks from the album, and it occurred to me that most of these pieces are outside of the traditional Black tape for a blue girl box.... and why not? This is my 10th album, I think I've already made my point that I can create moody, emotional, soundscapes. The idea for 10 Neurotics is to go about it in a new way, in a more song-oriented way.

Brian smacked me upside the head in an email today, reminding me of things I've forgotten about the direction of the album, my need to trust in my own vision, not to be afraid of the new, and that a track that is catchy is actually a GOOD thing.

Brian Viglione wrote: "There's nothing wrong with having a beat that you can move to on an album, especially if you're trying to do something new. The LYRICS are what makes the song interesting and moody! You have to give them some more credit! You're ignoring your own words!! You already have the waltzes, dirges, stomps, and heavy drum stuff on there. So give them something to groove to. You're right it doesn't sound like most Black Tape songs. GOOD! Spread you wings a little for fuck sake and don't be afraid to show more musical sides of yourself! It's healthy!"

Are artists afraid to come in from the cold. To get off the well-beaten path of the outsider?

(What do you think?)


  1. Hi Sam.

    I'm with Brian on this. It's fine for an older work to blossom into something completely different years later. I'm experiencing something similar with work of my own in that I have some material that is currently being re-interpreted and examined to the point where it has taken on its own life apart from the original intention.

    In listening to the demo material you've posted, it is definitely familiar (having myself, been familiar with your previous work), yet it certainly has a certain unfamiliarity which makes it interesting beyond inherent familiarity...

    On another note- this transparency with your process is really very interesting and I hope you continue to involve the 'public' in your process as work continues.


  2. Hi,

    Sounds like a great piece of music to me! I'm sure whatever you decide on will be excellent, so I would just go with your gut. Don't have to worry about this being pop music, because it isn't. I like the Mellotron type sounds in it, gives it a broody quality. Anyhow whatever you decide, I'm sure that will be the right path, follow the muse.

  3. I agree completely with Brian Viglione.
    Believe in your own words!
    Your lyrics are wonderful, mainly those for the songs Dagger (Halo Star) and Given (Aflame).
    So deep... They're simply fantastic.

  4. Natalie in Florida ( 6, 2009 at 8:01 PM

    I like the demo you've posted as well; it's fine to have songs that are a bit more "up-beat" than others within an album, and this shows your ability to span into different rhythms while still sticking to your roots. It's all about the lyrics and the tone used to relay them. Go for it, embrace change!

  5. Sam, Follow Euterpe, the Muse, and don't question her. The paths she lays before you are at times ephemeral. There is no crime, no denial, in this new song, it's really great! I could write a manifesto, but all I'll do is ask, at any point during the recording of this version, did you smile, nod, and say "yes" to yourself? Joy is joy, follow it. Peace, Tony Pucci (the "Songs for Jenny" guy)

  6. I certainly dig it. Nervousness is natural on a new path, and that nervous energy can lead you to a different place, even if rooted in the same values, and that sounds like what you're going for on the new album. Plus, why should a brilliant songwriter waste the talents of a brilliant drummer? Merci for keeping us updated with your work!

  7. The flute part retains some of the melancholy feel of the original version (especially of Oscar's voice) so you needn't worry about it sounding upbeat simply because it has a beat/groove. I like it. Dirges can be great but tiring as well; the drums (and the strumming of the guitar) here lend it a bit of nervous energy. Interesting how a female voice joins him for the title line -- she's certainly complicit in his desire for her to cheat and one wonders what she sees in him and how far he could push her before she left him completely.