So I’m done with Ragstock, moving on to (hopefully) bigger and better things. Going into the studio Friday, very excellent.
My anxiety is raging today, and I can’t figure out why. I suppose I could attribute it to trying to plan a summer tour schedule around a job I just started, or general fears about the album. Either way, I can’t seem to shake it.
Last day at Ragstock. Seems fitting that there be no one but me this morning. The good news is that I get to listen to whatever I want. This means: Esben and the Witch, Kiss, the Mountain Goats, Joan Jett, Fang Island, Titus Andronicus, PS I Love You, and Pinetop Perkins. So suck on that.
All Eternals Deck, as expected, is pretty damned great. I’ll have to listen to it a few times before I decide if it beats out my favorite of the later era Mountain Goats records (The Sunset Tree is currently holding out over the rest, though that is not including either of the superlative tour EPs Moon Colony Bloodbath or Satanic Messiah) but I can honestly say I think the production on this record is the best he’s ever had (with the exception of the too-goofy-to-even-enjoy-ironically “High Hawk Season”).
This song is probably the high point of the record, if not his songwriting the last few years. So damn simple (acoustic guitar, drums, bass) and utterly fierce. You can feel the insanity curdling behind it.
Back on track booking. The cogs are rusty and squeal in protest, but I fall back into the swing of pretty quick. It’s not difficult, just time consuming. The good news is that our bio has gotten exponentially more arresting (thank you Booby Long, typo intended) since we started and I’ve been able to largely phase out the boldfaced lies that used to garnish previous press releases (“Red Lanterns hailed as ‘bigger than Jesus, if he were in a Beatles Tribute band!’ by Sir Paul McCartney”).
Feeling better, crawling my way back towards health and sanity. Sleeping most of today has really helped.
The mixes are coming out great, in spite of my insecurity. We’re doing around 13 tunes (one sort of post-mod instrumental and one bad Leonard Cohen impression left to record), I think it’ll be a pretty neat album. Trying not to think of it in too grandiose a way, just want it to be a proper culmination of where I’m at in my life.
It helps to have Jim rocking it on the board and Melissa firing on all cylinders in the studio. Melissa has described me as a “End Product” kind of guy, which is mostly accurate. I feel a bit like a grunt when I’m in the studio: set up a mic in front of me and I’ll play to the best of my ability, do take after take until we get one we can use. The difficulty is conceptualizing; trying to suss out the means to the ends.
It can be very detached at times, but it’s also very thrilling. Committing a song to record tweaks the perspective on it, changes it from something you’re just saying to something you’re hearing. I’m often finding myself moved by something I’ve sung a million times but have never really thought about before. As Mel can attest to, I’ve gotten downright misty listening to myself sing certain lines.
Is this outrageous vanity, bordering on a personality disorder? You bet your sweet ass it is.
The point is, recording is a strange process and forces me to reevaluate the creature I am. I am reminded of moment Victor Frankenstein watches his creation open it’s watery yellow eyes for the first time and finds his former unflappable enthusiasm giving way to disgust. I can’t hide behind a big personality, the welling up of energy and character to bombard an audience. The words I sing have meaning beyond the mechanical, the guitar I play having a function beyond the simplest melodic structure.
I’m not saying I think I’m coming up short. It’s vital to any musician that they always know in their hearts that the tools they got are enough to get the job done. Maybe you’ll flounder a bit with the nuances and it might take a lot of banging and grunting, but you’ll get it done. It’s just odd.
The Guild, the old workhorse, is back in business thanks to Dave Collins from Collins Luthiery, just in time to go back to the studio tomorrow. I am, as might be expected, very excited.
I know it’s just wood and metal and that, ultimately, it will one day be unrepairable, but it’s valuable to me. It’s absolutely a totem, a fetish object, an excuse for me not to change and acclimate to something different. I also know it represents more than it is, although it plays great and sounds even better.
I think it’s hard to describe to people who aren’t musicians. I hate to say a thing like that, it feels like one of those nasty things you say to not have to face your own limitations and prejudices. But I feel like it’s a kind of unique relationship, a musician and a favored instrument. Every single musician I told about the Guild being broken reacted with the same pained wince. It won’t kill you (obviously) but it assaults the sense of self, the sense of safety, who you think you are and who you can be without it.
Anyway, glad to have it back. Glad to be going into the studio tomorrow, glad to have all these wonderful friends, family and friends donating to the kickstarter. Mostly just glad.
Going into the studio tomorrow. Nervous about it, but I think it’ll be fun in the long run. I’ve never been one of those artists with this well articulated, hyper-specific vision, more an opportunistic writer: I really feed on the talents of the people around me. Luckily, I’ve got a not-so-secret weapon in Melissa, who has this uncanny ability to just show up and play something beautiful and brilliant.
We will almost definitely have a few other players on the record once it’s finished, details to come as it shakes out.
Anxiety has been better, though I feel like I’ve been more antisocial than usual, though this could be attributed to being busy.
You know what blows? THIS ENTIRE TOWN LEADING UP TO ST. PATTY’S DAY. Maybe it’s being from Boston where, y’know, there’s actual Irish people, but seeing orange-skinned girls from New Jersey flip their shit over tiaras with “Irish Princess” on them just sickens me.
Not that I can claim to be at all Irish myself, I’m a Jew who worships at the alter of rock and roll. But almost all my best friends back home are Irish, and it’s the cutesy bullshit I can’t abide. Like, for one day a year, everyone is Irish and it’s FUN FUN FUN!!! The rest of the year, we’ll leave them to the alcoholism and potatoes.
To all the ladysluts and douchebag mansluts of the world: Don’t you realize you don’t need a special occasion to drink to blackout and make poor decisions? Own your hedonism, people. Don’t bullshit yourself and me by going through this elaborate ritual fuckfest. It makes you look like a fucking moron.
Here’s a few songs/artists I’ve been enjoying recently:
James Vincent Mcmorrow - “From the Woods!!!”: I adore this whole album. The Irish Bon Iver with balls. Utterly beautiful.
Alex Winston - “Sister Wife”: while I think she can get a bit cloying, this song is really great. It’s like weird indie folk dance pop, one of the quirkiest girl-power anthems ever. If Joanna Newsome decided she was Sasha Fierce.
Marina and the diamonds: God, this is a fun record. Marina is doing something nuts, making the bizarro music Lady Gaga looks like she’s making. Seriously, it’s almost off-putting how weird it is. I love it.
Elvis Costello: Always been a fan, but for some reason “Everyday I Write the Book” has been really getting me.
Talking Heads: I finally get it. I feel the groove. Very enjoyable punk art funk (hey, what do you call a Talking Heads side project set in the Star Wars universe? Tauntaun Club.)