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March 13, 2013

DSC05549Do you know why Ringo Starr had “blisters on his fingers”? I do. It’s because Paul McCartney learned to play drums, and Ringo hadn’t touched his kit in a long, long time. His callouses were history.

Cupla weeks ago, my Aunt Jan in Oklahoma City scolded me for my use of what’s generally considered “foul language” on Facebook, and said she was surprised that someone as ‘educated’ as myself would resort to tossing around the f-bomb like a Frisbee. Ever since then I’ve been trying to keep it relatively clean. But I cannot describe the feeling I have at this moment any better than to say that I am fucking ecstatic right now.

I’ve got the basic skeletons for everything except “Yeah Right” and “Son of Yeah Right or Crawl of the Tapeworm”—those two are ball-busters. Problem is, the ideas keep coming; wrote and tracked two additional cuts (tentatively titled): “Barnyard Shuffle” and “Freight Train of Heartbreak”. I’ve got no choice but to put the brakes on writing new stuff. I didn’t make it any easier on myself by switching to an Open D tuning, either. I forgot to mention that. I’m going Joni Mitchell at this point. No tuning left undiscovered. Anyway, new tunings generally inspire me to come up with riffs and whatnot. But I’ve already got more than enough material; in fact, I’ve got more than I originally thought.

One thing I said back in the beginning was that I planned on leaving the leftovers from Bigger Brighter Faster Worse. The other night I was testing my systems exchange ability, i.e. from the 8-track to ProTools and back again, which meant that I had to fire up ProTools. Out of curiosity, I opened the version of “Mountains of Honey” I recorded with Matt Tucker on drums in 2008. We were having major latency issues because of the length of the mic cables – I had 30’ and 60’ cables and no snake; it was kind of a mess. “Mountains” was one of the songs we had to cut live and it just wasn’t happening for Matt, whereas I wasn’t using headphones so the latency didn’t affect me. On the pre-recorded stuff, I was able to move the system closer to the garage (where Matt was set up) and used 15’ cables, which eliminated the problem. Most of those songs got finished.

Two things happened when I listened back to “Mountains”. The first is that the latency issue made it almost pointless to listen, since it was bugging the fuck out of me and I really didn’t want to dig into the manual and find a way to fix it, which I know is possible but really, I fucking hate that. If something doesn’t work the normal/usual/simple way, I am not the guy who goes back in there and finds a complex solution. Anyway, I muted the drums and scrolled back to the beginning. Lo and behold, I’m nailing it on my end—the guitars are right on the money, according to the click track, which Matt Tucker never played with (as far as I know) except this one time with me. He doesn’t need a click track. Right, so… I quickly dumped the files to CD and exported them to the BR-1180. Easy-squeezy. Then I listened to the acoustic version of “Mountains” I did over the weekend, which is pretty good, too. Found myself pert-near in a dilemma, kids. Which one should I go with? I like them both a lot.

The second thing that happened is that I wound up listening to all the leftovers from Bigger Brighter. Shit. There’s a lot of stuff that I had completely forgotten about, for instance, a couple of the tracks I did with Matt on drums, “Lowest Common Denominator” and “Sausages” are also pretty good and if I just spent a little time filling them out, they could be used in the future as well. So goddammit.

DSC05552Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon I booked the first drum sessions for Tuesday night at KHS. I’m really starting to like that place. They have two anybody-can-play drum rooms: D1 and D2. D1 has the shitty kit. I went over there and talked to the guy who does the scheduling, whose English name is Kyle and an exceedingly sweet cat. He plays the flute like he belongs in the symphony—I dunno, maybe he is. I walked in and there he was, doing Ian Anderson riffs. Gulp. My first thought:  “Do I have any stuff that could use flute? Nope.” Anyway, it’s kind of cool how they mark the bookings. The spreadsheets are in a plastic folder and when someone books a date, they take this thin strip of colored sticky paper, write your name on it, and tape it into the book. I like that. At least it looks kind of cool.

Anyway, Kyle had me booked in D1—the room with the shitball kit. I told him about my project and said hey, can we take a walk down to the practice rooms?—I wanted to point out the damaged drum heads. For once, D2 wasn’t being used, so I said to Kyle, “Hey, I like this kit a lot better. Can you put me in this room instead?” He didn’t respond or acknowledge and I thought, “Fuck.” Back upstairs, Kyle casually opened the schedule book and switching my strip with whoever was originally booked in D2. I was like, “Really? Can you do that?” He smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it.”

Following that bit of good fortune, I ran upstairs to buy a cupla sets of sticks—I’ve broken three borrowed 5Bs since I started coming here, and they told me, “OK, pal. Next time bring your own sticks.” So I hit the second floor and the dude I’m familiar with—I promise to learn his English name—was on the clock. When he saw me, he was like, “Oh, I got something for you!” and ran behind the counter, and then handed me a drum key.

“How much?” I asked. Nothing, he replied, it’s free. That’s pretty cool, I said. Classy move. Thanks a lot. Seriously, that shit made my day. The only sour note came when I found out they don’t sell mallets, which means I have to trek much further to a different music shop. Oh well. Mallets, you say? Yes, mallets. I love mallets, especially on the tom-toms. Plus, I’m going to be doing some different methods of recording the drums, like one drum at a time; and if I can get my hands on a xylophone or a marimba, damn straight I’m going to use them. Mallets would be nice to have, just in case.

So I show up on Tuesday night with all my gear—the 8-track, a mic, and a stand—check in with Kyle, who is standing at the main counter, and mosey down to the basement and into D2. The kit (as pictured) is by Sonor and this being my first time on it, my first move was to play it. Dropped the gear and sat on the throne. After a few minutes I thought, “Hell, these fuckers sound OK. I’m not going to tune them at all. Let’s just work on levels.”

As previously noted, I’m using one mic for everything on my end, even though I record everything in “stereo” on the BR-1180, the Rode NT-1A condenser mic is sensitive. At the time it came out, it was considered the best mic under $200 and probably still is, I dunno. I sold the majority of my mics or gave them away. I’ve got a bunch of Shure 57s and 58s, which is really all you need, but a condenser is the way to go if you’re going to relegate yourself to one mic, which is what I’ve chosen to do. Now, this is exactly how I did it on the first AH record, except Matt Tucker let me use his drums—a bitching set of Yamaha—and he tuned them for me in advance, which is another reason Matt T. is an exceptional drummer and fine human being. He knows how to tune drums and his shit is tight.

The shit at KHS? Not so tight. Anyway, I’m like, “Fuck it. Get to work.”

As you can see from the photo, it’s a tiny room. I didn’t measure but it’s probably 8’x5′ with 6′ ceiling. Incredibly loud. I had every monitor level maxed out and wasn’t really sure what was going on, even during playback. I knew I had the mic in the same place I had it for Dying; the levels were close; without a pre-amp it should be cool, right? I didn’t know how it was going to sound. The HMS practice space was cavernous by comparison, like 20’x20′. So I did what I always do when I’m not sure how things will turn out: I give it a shot.

The first song I attempted was “Crabtree & Madeline” and as far as I could tell, it didn’t sound good. At all. Again, it’s really hard to tell what’s what when all the monitor levels are maxxed. I got clicks and pops and 12-strings going. I dunno. The snare was just awful as far as I could tell. Plus, I’m already sweating like a slave, which in tandem with wearing headphones, is one of my most hated feelings in the world. It’s right up there with nausea on an empty stomach. Anyway. So just forge ahead.

Next track, “Whales Count” was a little easier to play (same BPM, ironically) and during the playback I thought, “The drums sound like a mix between the Flaming Lips and Phil Collins.” Following an attempt at “Right Now You’re Feeling Me”, I needed a smoke, so I busted to the 7-11 for a tallboy of Kirin and a pack of Marbs. Ooh that beer tasted good. I bought three more and went back to D2.

“Ain’t No Man Of The World” might be my all-time favorite AH song, mainly because it’s a reference to my all-time favorite Van Halen song, “Beautiful Girls”. So you got to know I came back with some beer in my belly and I looked at the levels and said, “Push it. Let’s run it hot.” Two takes, I figured, right on, let’s listen tomorrow. Overall, I thought my performances were ‘inspired’ at best. Remember, I’m not Neil Peart. I’m just slugging away at the fuckers, you know?

DSC05559At this point I was completely soaked, I got blisters ready to form where the skin has been torn away from my thumb and fore finger. My right leg is like, “Come on, dick. You didn’t say shit about three hours of four on the floor!” It’s a combination of pleasure and pain. My three hours are up. I love playing drums but I was done, done, like second place on AXN’s “Wipeout”. I packed my shit and thought, “I need to figure out a way to get a real drummer to play on this shit, cuz I’m not cutting it.”

Normally, I would have made a beeline for a 7-11 for a beer, but I wanted to get home and actually hear what I’d just tracked. When I got home, I was…fucking amazed, floored, shocked…

The drums sound like me. That’s all I’m gonna say. And overall, it was a successful operation. Next session is booked for this coming Sunday.

March 4, 2013

DSC05470Things were quiet for a week as I went home to Makati. My boss bought Henry a super-cool Playskool Rocktivity Sit, Crawl and Stand Band Activity Arch, and it’s been an endless source of entertainment for the kid. Returned to Taipei on the 27th and managed to squeeze a few sessions in between work and catching up with friends.

Thursday night was dedicated to getting one solid take of “Yeah Right,” which finally happened—kinda sorta—after 135 takes. That’s no exaggeration; I’ve been counting. Plus, I took an hour’s worth of video to document the process. What you see here is a one 10-minute segment distilled to 3:45. The final take (starts at 1:45) was not a keeper, though it was the closest I came during the first bottle of wine. The keeper came about 35 takes later and having listened to it a day later, think I can do better, so that’s why it’s a kinda-sorta deal.

You might watch the video and think, “It doesn’t seem all that difficult to play. Why is the guy having such a hard time with it?” Well, I’m glad you asked. See, this type of piece—a country-folk-punk instrumental—is kind of new to me in the sense that I’ve been listening to Leo Kottke my whole life, but I never tried to emulate his style. The majority of stuff that I do leaves some room for error; that’s kind of the point, really. There’s space between chords and notes, the rhythm and the melody. If I make a minor mistake, I can go back and fix it; not so with something like “Yeah Right” which has two quarter-beat rest notes in the whole one-minute and forty-five seconds it takes to play.

Meanwhile, that’s not even the hardest thing for me to play. “Yeah Right” has a cousin—“Son of Yeah Right or Crawl of the Tapeworm” which is a variation of the theme but played in Standard tuning and based in E major. The goal was to write something that crossed “Flight of the Bumblebee” with an Indian raga, and regardless of whether or not I achieved anything close to that, I have never, not once, been able to play it all the way through without making at least one mistake. Therefore, I’m saving it for the very end, when there’s nothing left but to do it. So I’ve got that going for me.

Saturday (2nd) and Sunday (3rd) were fairly productive, even though I made one of those stupid Joe Alone mistakes again; this time on Saturday afternoon, recording three separate guitar tracks for “The Rockford Files” before realizing that the basic rhythm arrangement was completely wrong. That’s the second time I’ve botched an arrangement and didn’t notice until three hours were wasted. I think it has to do with getting lost in the click track and not singing along to myself as I play. Anyway, as I mentioned last time, I did what I thought was a sweet version of “S.L.O.U.C.H.” only to find that I’d botched the arrangement, which could not be resolved with a punch-in. On Sunday I tracked a new version plus another take of “The Rockford Files.”

HeadphonesAlong the way I’ve come up with a few new ideas might come in handy somewhere down the line, so I’ve been tracking those bits just for reference. Oh, and we had our first casualty: my AKG headphones. These fuckers have been through a lot, so I ain’t mad at them, in fact, I’m surprised they survived as long as they did. They can be fixed of course with a soldering iron but it won’t be easy. Fortunately, I have back-up and the AKGs will go on the shelf until further notice.

This is kind of weird and I don’t know if it’s going to work but I tried it and we’ll see what happens. I’m working on a cover of The English Beat’s “Hands Off She’s Mine” and having a hard time with a couple of transitions. I was practicing along with the click track and kept getting lost. Then I had an idea: kill the click track and play along with the actual song. Since I had the guitar levels, there was no need for me to monitor through the 8-track. So I plugged the headphones into my laptop and played along with the song on iTunes while recording just the guitar. The timing might be a bit sketchy but I do remember one thing: I didn’t fuck up the transitions.

Overall, I’ve passed the halfway point for tracking the basic skeleton of the tracks. Unfortunately, about half of what’s left is the really hard shit. Tonight I’ll work on “Face” and “Mountains of Honey.”

February 20, 2013

Chinese New Year is officially three days dead now, so that means the sound of fireworks has been replaced with jackhammers and garbage trucks, which for those of you who don’t know the pure, sinister evil of the local garbage collection system, I give you this:

Anyway, almost two weeks into recording, I’ve tracked the basic structures of the following cuts:

“Ain’t No Man of the World”, “Whales Count”, “Kung Fu Gringo”, “Crabtree & Madeline”, and “Right Now You’re Feeling Me”; about half of “Come Closer” and “A Majority of Fishes” have been tracked. Last night I recorded a sweet-sounding version of “S.L.O.U.C.H.” which turns out to have a slightly flawed arrangement, and I don’t know if I can punch-in a fix or not. I can get that same guitar sound, no problem – I’ve got it dialed in now. However, I think I slipped in an extra measure at the turnaround in the middle of the cut. Sheezus. Makes my brain hurt.

I’ve done about three days of abandoned takes on “Yeah Right”, which is really hard to get through in one shot.  At some point I’ll start taking video footage documentary-style. There’s a lot of work ahead but I feel good about setting a limit on the number of songs.

Meanwhile, I went down to the music store on Sunday and played drums for an hour, which I’ve done maybe six times in the last three months.  More like spent 45 minutes trying to tune the kit and 15 minutes actually pounding the skins. They have a bunch of practice rooms down in the basement – I’m not sure how many – but I’ve only used that one room with the shitty kit. Unless you’ve been there you’ll never guess how much it is to rent the room. Ready? 100NT = $3.00 an hour. It’s almost free!

But the point is, this is the kit I’m planning to use for the drum tracks. As it is now, I’d be better off with a drum machine and I loathe drum machines; the one I have is almost unusable due to the fact that I’ve literally thrown it across the room a dozen or more times. Only two Aztec Hearts songs have a drum machine: “Daydream You’re Special” and “I Was Thinking About Loving You (But Not So Much Now)”, and in both cases, it was purely out of desperate necessity.  In the case of “Daydream”, I couldn’t get the opening kick drum to sound as big as I wanted, so I used the 808 preset on a Roland.

On “Thinking”, I finished the track in Taiwan about a year after abandoning the sessions – it’s not even a drum machine, it’s me playing keyboard finger drums on Garageband.

Afterwards, I returned the drum key to the counter and talked with one of the sales dudes about either getting the drum teacher next door (some rooms have glass walls) to tune the other kit, since I wasn’t having any luck, or replacing the skins on the kit because they’re torched almost beyond use. [Note: you’ll see what I mean when I post a picture.] I can see the teacher sitting in his room with the super-sweet Tama 5-piece. Actually, forget that; give me a new set of heads and I’ll tune the fuckers.

The sales dude seemed a little surprised and said, “Um, how do you want the drums to sound?”

Now, I know that this dude plays guitar and likes Guns n’ Roses, since he’s one of the crew that’s been around for a while. We are familiar with each other. He’s the same dude who didn’t understand why I didn’t need a microphone clip when I bought the mic stand, which for some reason, is not included in the price. Anyway, he’s got that same what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about look on his face and I almost started laughing. “I’m sorry, what?” I said.

“What do you want the drums to sound like?”

“Have you ever heard anyone play that kit?”

“Um, maybe.”

“I want them to sound like drums.”

Long story short, once I explained to him that I was preparing to do some recording, the light bulb went on over his head. Hopefully, they’ll replace the skins before I start recording the drums.

February 13, 2013

It’s Henry Rollins’ birthday today. I know this because his publishing company is called 2.13.61. He’s 52 years old now. That’s not so bad.

For the last five years I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that I’m “done with music” or “retired from music” or “taking an indefinite hiatus from music”, and it’s been a fairly consistent and convincing routine, since many of my overseas friends didn’t even know I made music in a previous life until BSM came to life. Thankfully, I never said, “Aztec Hearts are over.” Inspiration is a bitch, man. You never know when it’s going to snap.

It’s true: Aztec Hearts are recording a new album as we speak. The working title is: Inner Distance or The Inner Distance. A tsunami alert has been issued.

TPE Studio 1On February 8, 2013, I took what you might call the first concrete steps toward recording the next Aztec Hearts album, other than writing a dozen songs in the space of a month. That was the day, despite a painful and possibly broken toe, plus an equally crippling hangover, I went to my music store of choice and bought a microphone stand, since I don’t have one in Taipei. Sure, that sounds pretty tepid—big deal, mic stand, been there, done that thousands of times. However, once I got the mic stand home, that meant I had to set it up. And then pull out my Rode NT1A and make sure the shock mount is still aligned properly (it’s been in transit for five years). That led to pulling out my Boss BR-1180 digital 8-track, which has also accumulated more frequent flyer miles than I’ve been influenced by many things recently.

Actual recording began on February 10, 2013. Two songs have been started; the first is called “Come Closer”; approximately the first two minutes of the song have been sketched, which I estimate should top out at 3:30 [3 m 30 sec]. The second track is “Kung Fu Gringo”, for which I’ve captured the scratch rhythm guitars and the arrangement. I feel like it’s a bit pathetic that I’m recording at my makeshift bedroom studio in Taipei while many of my peers are doing it right, as in legitimate studios, but necessity is the mother of invention, in’it? That was not a rhetorical question.

Aztec Hearts is my “band”, or at least, the brand name under which I’ve made music since 2005. I like the name and it means something to me beyond the symbolism and imagery of an extinct South Central American civilization which may or may not have been contacted by extra-terrestrials who knew how to build pyramids and slaughter virgins on the roof when the Moon was Void of Course—or whatever those fuckers were thinking or doing.

TPE Studio 3After five years of no activity, I’ve decided to revive and reinvent Aztec Hearts. Decided is not quite accurate. It just sort of happened. What I definitely decided was to cut out the bullshit and pretense of speaking through a surrogate in the form of Temerity Smith-Flax. As documented here, last year I played a one-off show (billed as Christian Adams) at a club in Taipei, Taiwan, after nearly six years of not performing live. Although I never completely abandoned music altogether, there was a period of time between 2008-2012 that I hardly if ever touched a guitar or any other instrument. Shortly before moving to Taiwan, I made a conscious decision to “stop making music.” There was no timeline or date circled on the calendar. I just kept hearing my inner Christian telling my outer Christian that it was time to stop. Eventually, I listened. Stopping could have meant anything from a year to the rest of my life, but I had one thing made up in my mind before leaving the U.S.; music was in the past, the future was unknown.

This type of disassociation is similar to denial—I believed I could walk away from music at will, anytime I wanted, and not have to deal with any repercussions. On one hand, the hiatus was a relief because I was totally burned out. Within a year of not writing songs or coming up with guitar riffs, it felt good to have that creative part of my brain back again. In another way, it was like having something taken away from me. Being robbed or mugged. Or losing your iPhone on the subway. Gone forever, right.

Shortly after the birth of my son in January 2012, I bought a small acoustic guitar—the kid’s first guitar—just to have around the house. Within minutes of getting it home and tuning the nylon strings, I was back. The spell had ended. That led to playing the live show. And then I played the show and thought, “OK, that’s something I can do once a year.” Six months went by and I didn’t touch the guitar.

One day I was listening to Bob and Ron’s Record Club and they played “If 6 Was 9” by Jimi Hendrix and I thought, “Ronnie and I used to play that song in Brain Kiss…” and so dug out the 12-string, which is the only guitar I have in Taipei, and started playing along. Then I thought of all the other cover songs we used to do and I had a fun couple of nights just banging through the classics. But then a problem emerged.

TPE Studio 4Playing in Standard tuning on a 12-string is also a bitch, especially if you’re using Barre chords or playing all over the fretboard—it just tears you up. When I was practicing for the Bobwundaye show, I’d be doing three, four hours a night, and I’d wake up in the morning and literally couldn’t use my left hand until sometime in the afternoon. Like, I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. So that was quite a big deterrent for picking up the guitar. Then one day I thought, ‘Well, you could just tune down to Open G and save some wear and tear. Ninety-five percent of both Aztec Hearts records were written in Open G, so I’m pretty familiar with the tuning—I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, but I can get around. In mid-January I picked it up and started noodling through some old songs, like “Warm Rain” and “Leave the Light On”. And then it just sort of snowballed from there.

Then I started going through my entire catalog and re-learning to play songs from Golden Tones, Henry Miller Sextet, and even a Whitey song or two. It’s was a lot of fun; since none of those songs were written in Open G, I had to find creative ways of re-interpreting the songs. Golden Tones have been my main focus. I’ve done versions of “S.L.O.U.C.H.”, “Drum Solo”, and “Scout’s Honor”.

Within two weeks of picking up the guitar, re-tuning to Open G, I’d come up with the basic structure for ten songs, and at the moment, including cover songs, I’ve got almost 20 cuts to lay down.

It’s so fucking weird. Like, I didn’t intend to start writing; it was just for entertainment, really. But playing in Open G is so much fun; it presents you with a completely different perspective, both melodically and rhythmically. So one day I just started picking out a little riff and remembered it. The next day I took another stab at it. Then another riff came to mind. It took a couple of days but eventually I came up with a complete arrangement.

Unfortunately, even though I have a couple of recording interfaces here [in Taiwan and the Philippines], the majority of my equipment—the bass, the guitars, the keyboards, the microphones—are in a storage space in S.F. Plus, I want to do the live drums myself; that’s probably going to be the biggest headache. So we’ll see. I’m thinking about doing a Bruce Springsteen Nebraska-type record, just me and an acoustic guitar, with maybe a few touches of color here and there. But the amount of practice involved is staggering and takes a lot of time away from doing other stuff on BSM and elsewhere, like writing books, which is what I do for a living.  I don’t want to make another major mistake by planning a full-blown, double-disc concept album like I did last time around.

Whitey/Golden Tones practice space playlist circa 1997-98
Whitey/Golden Tones practice space playlist circa 1997-98

As for that unfinished second album, Bigger Brighter Faster Worse, I’m just going to leave it alone. Let it be my Smile—the ultimate failed experiment. However,  I’ve resurrected two songs from the project that didn’t quite get finished. There were a few cuts that were totally tracked except for vocals. The lyrics are always the last and hardest thing for me to finish—which is strange considering what I do for a living. You’d think I could just bang that shit out, but I can’t. For instance, my favorite of the Bigger Brighter lot that didn’t get finished is this song called “Mountains of Honey” which for some reason I couldn’t wrap my head around the vocals. It’s a pretty heavy rock number and needed something like a Robert Plant-type bluesy-wailing thing, and I just didn’t—and don’t—have that in me anymore. Not that I ever did, but I had my version of it. Anyway, by approaching the song with a fingerstyle on the 12-string, the whole thing still works and I can actually hear myself singing something over it.

The working title of the record is Inner Distance or The Inner Distance and it’s not really a concept album; however, by looking at the song titles there are clearly a few themes: animals, food, irony, nature, separation anxiety, and television. It’s impossible to say what the record is going to sound like because 99% of it has yet to be recorded, except I think it’s going to have a surprisingly country feel to it—and I don’t mean that in a Gram Parsons or Garth Brooks sort of way—I’m talking Jerry Reed, Leo Kottke, and the Incredible Hulk. And then twist it up and hotbox the joint. The only way I can describe what the songs are like is by saying the majority of songs were written in Open G and by listing the artists I’ve been listening to lately or have been listening to more often than usual.

  • Wire, Pink Flag
  • English Beat, I Just Can’t Stop It
  • a shitload of old Elvis, Little Richard, and Gene Vincent
  • fIREHOSE, if’n;
  • Rod Stewart, Never a Dull Moment
  • Led Zeppelin, Presence
  • Colin Blunstone, “Say You Don’t Mind”
  • Keith, “98.6”
  • The Meters
  • Failure, Fantastic Planet
  • Billy Dolan/Five Style/Heroic Doses
  • DMX
  • Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 – Andante
  • The Minutemen
  • Tool, 10, 000 Days
  • Sex Pistols
  • Pussy Riot
  • Adam and the Ants, Dirk Wears White Socks
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nocturne and Hyaena
  • Swans, The Seer
  • Can
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Zappa
  • Velvet Underground, Loaded
  • Leo Kottke, “Vaseline Machine Gun”

…and many more. But you’ll notice that it’s a completely different list from Dying or Bigger Brighter. There’s no Cheap Trick, Van Halen, The Cure, Sabbath or John Lennon. I’m not listening to Adele but I’m trying to stay away from the usual suspects.

Ghetto LoveSpeaking of which, of the 15-20 songs I’ll track, there are three and a half covers that I’m doing for sure. The first is the English Beat’s “Hands Off She’s Mine” from I Just Can’t Stop It, which perfectly describes my addiction to the record [or maybe “Best Friend” from the same album]. The second is “La’hov” by Mates of State, a husband-wife duo from S.F. who were HMS’s practice space mates in the early 00s. My version will feature considerably more guitar. Haha. The third cover is “S.L.O.U.C.H.” by Golden Tones, which isn’t as much a cover version as plagiarism – I was in GT and I wrote most of the song. Anyway, the song plays perfectly in Open G. so consider it a slam dunk.

The final cover is a re-write of an unreleased Five Style song from 1996 demo sessions at Ghetto Love which I have one of the few remaining copies; the song has been re-figured and re-titled “The Rockford Files” but keeps all of the original elements.

Current track list:

  1. Come Closer
  2. Mountains of Honey
  3. Right Now You’re Feeling Me
  4. Crab Tree & Madeline
  5. Ain’t No Man of the World
  6. S.L.O.U.C.H.
  7. Whales Count
  8. Face
  9. The Rockford Files
  10. Yeah Right
  11. La’hov
  12. Kung Fu Gringo
  13. Hands Off, She’s Mine
  14. Son of Yeah Right or Crawl of the Tapeworm
  15. Hello, Beaver
  16. A Majority of Fishes

For the record, I also considered recording the following covers:

  • “True Blue” by Rod Stewart
  • “2 + 2 = 5” by Radiohead
  • “Things I Will Keep” by Guided By Voices

Why use the BR-1180 digital 8-track, other than that’s what I have–but I also have Pro Tools and Garageband and Audacity…? The BR-1180 was nowhere near the best stand-alone hard disk recording platform manufactured in 2001 when Chris Lanier bought it, but it served his purposes as an easy-squeezy replacement for his Tascam 4-track. When Henry Miller Sextet abruptly ran out of money in early 2002, we decided to record the second Metal EP on the BR-1180. That was a disaster detailed here, but it was human error, not the fault of the machine, which for all intents and purposes, is pretty kick-ass – as long as you remember to save your work every 45 minutes or so… Right, so sometime in 2004, Lanier upgraded to the BR-1600 (16-track) and sold me the BR-1180 for pennies in the dollar. The first Aztec Hearts record was tracked on the BR-1180. Quick story:

Dying for You To Hear This was mastered by Wally McClellan at Wallysound (who also engineered HMS’s Swan Song EP). Upon first hearing the tracks, Wally said, “What did you record this on?” and I said, “The BR-1180.” He was shocked by how clean and strong the levels were. Maybe part of that was my engineering skill, but I listen to cuts from Dying and I think, “I did good Papa.”

Anyway, I bought Pro Tools in 2007 and the BR-1180 went into storage until late 2011 when I brought it back to Taiwan in my suitcase. The first step is to record the skeleton of every song (except vocals) using the 12-string and a click track on the BR-1180. Next step is to record the live drums in a local rehearsal studio, and I really really really wish Matt Tucker were around to help me out—on the BR-1180. Once that’s done, I’ll dump everything into Pro Tools .So far I’ve spoken to exactly one person about collaborating and contributing to the album, and he appears to be down with the project. I have thought about working with other people and I’m open to suggestions, but I am not actively seeking contributors yet. Once I have the skeleton of each song tracked, then I’ll consider the possibilities.

Finally, all of this leads up to the question: am I planning on playing live again? Yes. The thing is; I don’t want to put a band together and go through the whole routine. I could; I could easily try. There are a lot of musicians in Taipei, some of whom would probably be game to play with me. I just can’t do it. The thought of dealing with all of the bullshit just makes my testicles shrink and recede into my pelvis. I’d rather jump into an icy river filled with hungry sharks. The type of effort we’re talking about is ‘heroic’. So I’ve thought about it, talked it over with my wife [Janice], and I’ve decided that I’m going to play one show a year for the rest of my life—on the ninth of June, every year. The other night I went down to Bobwundaye and asked [bartender and booking agent] Laura if I could have June 9, 2013. It’s five months away but at least it’s on the calendar.

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