Posts in Category: Music

The Love Song of Gregor Samsa

This is the first original song I ever recorded. Prior to this, I had dabbled with experimental instrumental songs, but this was the first time I wrote a regular song, with lyrics and everything, and committed to recording it. I intended to send up songs like Iron Maiden’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which pompously sought to elevate heavy metal using classic literature, but often missed the point. I thought it would be funny to retell Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as a cheery message of hope, ignoring the central theme of Gregor burdening his unloving family, who finally find happiness when he dies.

The drums are a SoundFont, a technology that was popular at the time of its recording (2001). Even though they’re sort of passé, I still find myself using SoundFonts for a lot of synth applications. They’re more durable than other synth programmers.

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Rejection (a.k.a., Winter, a.k.a. Sexual Anguish)

Oh, joy! A weepy-stringed, experimental, hip-hop, jammy sonic collage designed to express, in sound, the emotions that go along with rejection from the fairer sex. Despite the pretension of the concept, I actually…kinda think this song achieves its goal. Don’t ask me what, if anything, I sampled. I don’t want to get sued. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink-saynomore.

When it came time to collect the flotsam and jetsam of my recording history for The ‘You Can Touch It for a Quarter’ Sessions, this was the only song I considered truly “finished”—I never intended to record vocals for it, and it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to. (I did polish it up a little bit with some EQ tweaks and digital delay.) Since I had a list of titles to match songs to, I figured “Sexual Anguish” was the best fit for this. After all, what is rejection from the fairer sex but sexual anguish?

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Leaving Her

At one time, I tried to write serious songs. This one, and “Meeting the One” boast very personal lyrics, and consequently, they’re sort of bad and self-obsessed. That’s why they ended up forming “a shrub in the hedge maze of life.” I had enough dignity to realize my histrionic melodrama would only make me look bad, unless I pretended it was ironic and put it out there for people’s amusement.

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The Tragedy of Cyril Ivanovich Abramovsky and Vlad, the Also Impaler

I had a lot of downtime while working at Motorola, so I used to go down to the cafeteria, study for the LSAT, and write song lyrics. I decided I wanted to record an impassioned, solipsistic album about the collapse of my most recent relationship, but I’m terrible at lyrics. I decided the best way to give them some structure would be to follow classical poetic conventions. So, if you pay attention, you’ll find the verses are in iambic pentameter, with a nontraditional rhyme scheme. It was also my first experiment with a wall of sound, which I think turned out pretty well.

Incidentally, you may notice that this song, impassioned though it may be, has nothing to do with the collapse of my most recent relationship. Indeed, it’s an oddly comic song about an undercover CIA agent who brings a hulking Soviet back to the U.S. to train as a professional wrestler. Allusions to a homosexual relationship and the city of Kiev smelling like the popular dish chicken Kiev make this one of my favorite songs. It proves I can write a song with witty lyrics that isn’t totally explicit.

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A Very Abysmal Christmas

A year after launching the Abysmal Crucifix blog to promote a screenplay and double-album nobody but me cared about, I decided it needed fresh blood—new music. I started going back and recording songs that allegedly populated previous Abysmal albums, but first, I came out with an anti-commercial Christmas single. The song has a sound unique in the Abysmal canon because, at the time, I was having serious intonation issues with my electric guitar and could afford neither a strobe tuner nor a professional re-intonation. So I plugged a fuzzbox into my microphone chain and played the majority of the song on a multitracked acoustic guitar. (The only exceptions are the two guitar solos—it’s much harder to distinguish intonation problems when you aren’t strumming chords.)

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Girth McDürchstein’s ‘The Return’

Click the image for a larger view.

After I was exposed to R. Kelly’s magnum opus Trapped in the Closet, I became obsessed with every detail of the insane production. I had already written it into canon that Girth re-conceived his ill-fated album, Girth McDürchstein’s ‘The Return’, as some sort of hip-hop extravaganza. Eventually, I decided to record the “metal” version of Trapped in the Closet, which I then “leaked” via Tommy Janofsky. It’s basically 13 tracks of the same basic theme, which is why I’m only sharing one track.

Press the “Play” button to listen.

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Buena Vista Street

During the same period I wrote “Vlad,” I wrote a song for the abandoned break-up album about a guy driving from one end of Burbank, California, to the other, in order to buy a coffeemaker. A mundane story-song made metaphoric by the notion that he’s desperate to get across town, his progress impeded by various traffic-related problems, in order to obtain something he not only wants but needs—only to discover, when he finally arrives at the Empire Center Target, that they’re all sold out of the Bunn he wants. So he either has to keep waiting or settle for less. That’s sort of how I look at life, I guess.

In the summer of 2010, I started having panic attacks. They most frequently manifested while driving, and I eventually realized it has a great deal to do with the emotional terrorism of my progress being impeded by cars that refuse to just drive the fucking speed limit. It was a breakthrough that helped me settle down, at least while driving. Strange that, four years earlier (I didn’t record it until about six months after I wrote the song), I’d written lyrics about the same basic symbolic problem.

Though I had lyrics and music completed, I ended up not recording the song because of the melody. It was too high for my range, so singing it made me sound like a dying cat. When I tried to change the key, the song sounded weird and muddy. It’s a bright, happy G. Anything else made it sound moribund.

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Put It Where It Doesn’t Belong

You might think this is another song about anal sex, but you’re wrong. It’s actually an anti-immigration song focused on the joys of mixed-race relationships. Despite the lyrical content, I think this remains my most poppy song. The only thing that bugs me is the choice of effect on the final guitar solo. It doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the song. Alas, I’m too lazy to rerecord it, so it’s canon.

I actually recorded the acoustic version first. I bought an inexpensive percussion kit and wanted to experiment with creating my own rhythm section. I had some good results with “A Very Abysmal Christmas”, so I decided to continue that with a semi-jazzy rendition. In many ways, I prefer this to the electric version.

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Two Berries on a Twig

During the summer of 2007, I became convinced one of my ex-girlfriends had been parking outside every night from midnight to four in the morning. I realized I was just being paranoid, but it inspired this delightful ode to the consequences of stalker behavior.

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Phone Sex

I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. If you take the time to read through the Abysmal Crucifix blog, you’ll find it littered with references to their history (among other iconic rock moments). I wanted to pay homage to (1) the derivative nature of pop songwriting, (2) Brian Wilson’s insane 1977 debacle Love You, and (3) phone sex. One of my ex-girlfriends quite enjoyed the latter, but I found it to be the silliest thing two people could ever do. This song is a reaction to that, with a redundant chord progression and melody directly inspired by “Mona” from Love You. The name “Starla” comes from a combination of sources: the Smashing Pumpkins’ 11-minute epic on Pisces Iscariot, and the name of the woman Kirk Van Houten shacks up with when he gets a divorce.

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