April 29th, 2007 - Studio Entries
Studio Journals, Day One (Rehearsal)
Well, it’s time to pop out another CD. Today is the first day of work with the band, and we are rehearsing at Oarfin studios in Minneapolis. It’s a seven hour session, and we go through Swim, Surfaces, Babies, Ladder, and Dive. Some songs, like Dive, work well right away. Others, like Surfaces are a damn ordeal. Surfaces, by far, requires the most time and attention to get working. It’s a pretty crappy song when we begin, and surprisingly it gets even crappier as one of our first experiments is to do is with a disco beat. Yes, a disco beat. As we all try to keep open minds and entertain all the possibilities, this disco thing is a serious miscarriage. After some time, we go back to another beat and then, when Dirk (guitarist) comes up with a really cool lick, the song suddenly takes shape and we all get excited. It doesn’t take much to get me excited at this point, as I’ve had four tall Lattes and haven’t eaten yet. Yes, I know, watch out for your ascetic tendencies, etc. It’s just that I forgot to eat. So, I get a sandwich.
Anyway, there’s a new song “Babies” which is only a couple days old, that we work on as well. I’m pretty jazzed about it, but I’m not sure if it’s good, since I’ve not been able to play it in front of people. It’s a synthesis of spooky and soothing.
I’m trying to write and include some shallow songs on this CD, and I wrote Rock Stars and Models and Surfaces expressly toward this end. I feel that after Bright Apocalypse, I needed a more integrated, balanced record, as BA was entirely interiors, all esoteric spiritual songs. So, this time around I’ve decided to try and reflect the spectrum of human experience, the shallows and the depths, the inner and outer, above and below, light and dark. How successful the album is in doing this is for others to judge, but I’m hoping to make a more integral pop album.
The pillars of the CD are three songs, called Swim, Dive, and Drown. These pieces serve as the legs which the rest of the songs stand on. Water is a metaphor for God on this CD, and those three songs tell the story of a soul going back home, of the droplet returning to the ocean. All three of the songs are largely inspired by the book Grace and Grit, and Treya has been a huge presence in my writing since I read the book.
As in the yin yang symbol, I am deeply taken with art that reflects the unity of opposites. There is light in the dark, there is dark in the light. And I know some will listen to this CD, as people have done after so many of my shows, and email me, saying how I’m confused, or a hypocrite, or weird, because how can you have a song like Rock Stars and Models on the same album as Invincible?, and how can you have a song like Dresden on the same album Nothing In Between?, etc etc. How can I sing love songs about God one minute and then sing about S&M sex with a hooker the next?
First, just because a person writes in first person, it does NOT mean a song is autobiographical. I’m stating the obvious, but I’m surprised some people think all these songs are about me. Human beings can occupy an enormous range of states and perspectives, and an artist (or anyone) may access wildly divergent states to study them from the inside. The reason I wrote Ani I Adore, for instance, was not because I want to sexually abuse someone, or to glamorize it, or endorse it. Any reasonable person wishes to alleviate the suffering of others, not increase it. But if we simply write songs saying “sex abuse is bad”, who are we going to reach, who will be transformed by that message? It’s preaching to the choir. I really didn’t see the point in writing a song about sex abuse if I was just going to say that it’s bad, we all know that already. I wanted to understand its source, to look deeply into the dark. To transform the dark dimensions of humanity, of ourselves, I think we need to go right into them. If we fearlessly examine our dark dimensions, we can disarm them, often simply by unflinchingly witnessing the shadow. I have felt strongly about this for a long time, that it’s crucial to crawl inside the dark rooms of the haunted house. You can’t just stand outside house and wave a flashlight around. So, with Ani I Adore, for instance, I went inside the head of the sex abuser, and wrote from his perspective. This is what is behind songs like Dresden, Ani, Doppelganger, Rock Stars and Models, etc, and of course my own shadow is in there somewhere too.
My point is simply this: Reality not divisible. It’s not merely some spiritual maxim. I don’t experience God as something that has categories, ‘this is God, that’s not, God is in this, God is not in that’. God IS. That Reality includes Ramana Maharshi, George W. Bush, and Pamela Anderson, hurricanes and rainbows, fresh spring water and toxic bile, holy scriptures and pornography. Some people say that God shines light on the good and the bad, that It provides for both without preference. But really, God IS both ~ who knows why, but the Mystery is playing a game of hide and seek with Itself. Spirit loses Itself, seeks Itself, and finds Itself. It seeks itself endlessly, but is never really lost. How can you lose what has no ‘other’? God didn’t just become white light and angels~ but has also assumed the forms of nazis, tornadoes, dung beetles, and cancer cells. (I remember the character in Thin Red Line who spoke “Who are You to assume so many forms?”).
So, why do I sing as a murderer in one breath and divine Love in the next?, a lecherous egomaniac in one song and a Bodhisattva in another? Which one is me? Neither? Both?
What is my identity- Artist, Seeker, Man, Human, etc? All those identities are impermanent. They are real, but only in the relative sense, they all come and go eventually. Is there something that never comes or goes, that was never born and never dies? What is it that is aware of experiences, but is not an experience itself? What is not reducible to any one identity, but hides inside each of them?
There is a lot of disturbing material in my music, I know. I’m a public student performing an experiment; How can I help illuminate a haunted house? By finding the light inside me, then going inside that house. How can I transform the demons in that house? By being present in Love. Why would I want to go into a haunted house? Because my loved ones are in there! Because I have BEEN a demon in that house, and loved ones have come for me again and again, showing me love until I snapped out of it. Heaven and hell are in the same place. The haunted house is the mansion of heaven. Angels wander from room to room, seeing the perfect light radiating from and through everything. They also see insane angels, hallucinating their hell. When they find them, they can only sit with them in love, until maybe they wake up to what already IS. We are in the same mansion, we are each other’s saviors. I have gone crazy so many times, and you keep finding me, staying with me until I wake up. What would I do without you? Will you promise to keep finding me, to go into every room for as long as it takes? I promise to keep finding you, in every room, as long as it takes.
I am with you when you cry
closer to your face
than the water in your eyes
those tears become my own
I know that you are homesick
even though you’re home
I whisper in your ear
“You are already free”
Soon you will laugh
and remember that you’re me
You were never lost
the Heart was always full
the Heart is all there is
I am with you when you weep
when both your eyes are closed
and you don’t know you’re asleep
at night you dream of harm
You dream that you are lost
but you’re sleeping in my arms
I whisper in your ear
“You are already free”
Soon you will wake up
and remember that you’re me
You were never lost
the Heart was always full
the Heart is all there is
Studio Journals, Day Two
Today we are rehearsing at Sound Gallery, which is about a hundred floors in the air in some warehouse in Minneapolis. Ice has covered everything in the city, as it’s been raining for the last day, then freezing, then raining, then freezing. It’s a hockey player’s dream, and I secretly consider canceling rehearsal so I can skate full speed down Washington Avenue. But, it’s time to make the donuts.
The rehearsal space is a big place with concrete floors, brick walls and steel ceilings. It’s LOUD in there. Dirk’s electric guitar is loud, Jimi’s drums are loud, Enrique’s bass is…….not too bad.
Today we start by running Rock Stars and Models. I emphatically tell the band that I want this to be the most commercial song I’ve ever recorded. I say things like
“Pure pop candy, ok? A hundred pounds of sugar, alright? Wall to wall satin, got it? SELL OUT!!”
So, in the spirit of recording what is possibly my first ever single with any hope of wide appeal, we start out by taking a razor to the song. First, Dirk says if I want it to be a real pop single, I should cut the bridge in half. We try that. Yes, the song is much catchier that way. Then, Alex (engineer, co-producer with God, visionary cat) says there’s also a lot of extra flab in the pre-chorus, so we then cut out another four bars before every chorus, which also means me chopping out lyrics. Over all, the song loses three lines and about 20 bars. It’s a lean, mean pop machine when we’re done. Then, we come up with a stock, standard pop arrangement, an infectious stomp kids will not be able to resist. Billy Squier would be proud!!! Rock Stars and Models will roar through the suburban homes of humping adolescents! It will blare from trucks at rural keggers! It will waft like bad cologne through frat row in every city! Elderly women will scowl at the impropriety of “kids these days” and “that racket they call music”…..
So, then we go onto Savoring Samsara. This song has radio potential too, and we really get it rolling fast. I have literally written four different versions of this song, and this is my favorite. Dirk says he wants to try something weird and freaked out on the ontro, but he thinks since the song has a chance with some radio play, that we should end the song, then come back in with the band, so that radio stations can play it as a short version if they want. Hmm, I say. Yes, as we did with the song Mercy. Actually, this strategy is a bit different. I can’t believe how good the song is sounding. My voice is stronger than ever, as I haven’t smoked in a month, and I feel like I could belt em’ out all day. I feel like I could sing a note that would make a listener incontinent, like if I really gave it my all, the band members would inadvertently evacuate their bowls, and sheepishly excuse themselves to examine the contents of their pants, which would still be reverberating with the note which erupted from my chest.
We then go on to Fault Lines. This one we take apart, cut out tons of shit, then play it for a while. Then, we notice that it sucks the new way, and we put it back together the way it was, and leave it.
Then, Nothing In Between. Ugh. This piece of shit drags on forever, as it’s over five minutes long and takes up a LOT of time. We go over, cut stuff out, talk sounds, arrangements, this that, it just never seems to click. We finally get Jimi going on a totally new groove, a new kind of drum beat and it starts to take off. But, for a time, I am sitting in a chair wondering why I am making another CD. Certainly not because there’s some big demand, and this will be my 10th album. As the band pours over the tedium of this song that won’t work, I fantasize about leaving the music business and joining a monastery. I really feel I could be ok with this, and actually I would not mourn letting music go. But, as the band asks my opinion on something, I get pulled out of my daydream. Then, I sort of stop rehearsal and we have a big conversation about the nature of this record, what’s working, what’s not. At issue for a lot of us, particularly Alex and I, is the concern that we not make the same record as last time, since it’s the same band, same studio, etc, although I HAVE written new songs. The whole band actually agrees we don’t want to make the same record as last time, and we brain storm ways to make sure we keep a fresh approach, a beginner’s mind. We also don’t really want to make another Minneapolis singer-songwriter record, another formula fucking singer-songwriter record. I’m so sick of folk rock, and singer songwriter blah blah blah -it makes me want to puke. But, the problem is, I write songs that are in that form, that is my genre (ugh!!). All I’ve listened to for the last year is Duran Duran and Talking Heads, but you know, when you perform as a solo acoustic artist 150 nights a year, you get some habits.
As I sit in my chair and look at my acoustic guitar, I think how I’m sick as hell of acoustic guitars too. I start to daydream again, this time I imagine myself laying that acoustic on it’s back, pulling my pants down and taking a big shit right in the sound hole. Then I dump gasoline on it and light it on fire, and dance around it throwing spears into it, like they did in Dances With Wolves, but my Indian name is Smashes Guitars, and I am throwing spears into that shit filled wooden box that will curse me no more with its one dimensional folky sound. Ha!! Spear in the bridge. Ha!! Foot snaps the neck in two. Flames climb higher, Smashes Guitars throws his head back and howls to his new totem animal, the ELECTRIC GUITAR!!!!
I’m pulled out of the beautiful fantasy by Alex, asking me if I want anything, he’s making a run to the shop. We both glance over at the constellation of empty lattes next to my microphone stand, half expecting a bowling ball to come crashing through any moment.
“Ugh, I’ll have a latte”.
“Yeah, I know.”
We move on to do Drown and Immanence. Immanence is just a ridiculous romp, very short, very fast, and it actually never repeats a section. It’s really Post Apocalyptic Punk Folk, whatever that might be, this song is surely it. If it’s even a song. It takes the band about ten minutes to have it perfectly nailed. “Next”, they say like a snore.
When we do drown, it takes quite a bit of work to get things reconfigured again, mostly time spent on working out a new drum part, which we then plan to record into a weird loopy thing, then do another drum set over that, kind of a two drum set wing a ding. Enrique starts doing a really cool swell effect with his bass petals, which I really love, then he changes a chord in the progression of the instrumental section, and that makes things even cooler, and damn, we just get rolling on this baby.
Also included in the day is Doppelganger Body Donor, which I stylistic describe as “Vaudeville Dutch Nightmare”. We have a damn blast playing it, and it only takes us one or two times to get it nailed. Oh my, it’s a fun one. The band is all shouting “Forgive me..” on the choruses, which makes me laugh.
Leaving at the end of the rehearsal, we nearly get locked in the freight elevator. It’s dark, cold, and scary, and from what I can tell we’re a hundred floors in the air. Alex suggests we should not have put the whole band in one elevator, as now we will lose the whole album as we die together.
So be it. You gotta get out of the music business sometime.
Studio Journals Three
We load into Pachyderm Studios on Wednesday night at about ten p.m. I make the drive down with Jimmy, the drummer, who is unequivocally one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Almost everything he says is funny, and you have to watch it, because hours can slip by where you haven’t done anything but expand and contract the muscles in your face and stomach. While this is surely healthy for the body and soul, it makes your face sore in the short term. Jimmy does many “characters”, a band favorite is his portrayal of a old northern Minnesotan outdoorsman type who is also a closet homosexual. Jim absolutely nails this character, and out of nowhere his thick rural Minnesota accent pops out phrases like
“just two guys…..spoonin’. Not ‘n a gay way, ‘course….just two guys, spoonin’.”
“just two guys….figure skatin’….not ‘n a gay way, course….”
The effectiveness of his rendering lies in the timbre and inflection of his voice, which he has refined to a genius. He does many other characters, an English rock star, etc. When I ask him to define or explicate the nature of these characters, he pops right into his Minnesota Closet Homosexual Outdoorsman, and says
“’ta fuck, ya’ trina’ comon’ ta me, ‘r sumpin? Yer lookin’ at me…ya got ‘ta glisten in yer eyeee….”
So, we arrive, load in to the studio. My friend and investor Eric is here too, helps us set up and get rolling. After we load in for a while, set up drums, Alex, Jimmy and I go over to the house for another pre-production meeting. We talk about strategies for the overall project, what are the main principles we are working from. I say vocals are the number one priority. While at rehearsals we have been trying hard to come up with ways to make this record different, not only from my previous CDs, but from all the singer-songwriter stuff out there. The three of us come up with something Alex calls the Deltarama, which is a pyramid, and equilateral pyramid, mind you, which has three points. These points will guide us through the session, they are:
So, our three main tenets are to focus time and attention on vocals, to simplify parts, a kind of exercise in reduction, and to do unique and creative things in the mix, which we will also chart out during tracking. Hoo da.
Our pre-production meeting ends at about 5am.
At 5:55am I wake up, look at the clock, and still half asleep, note with fascination the series of three fives. They seem to stay there forever, it seems so long before they change that I consider the possibility I am outside of time. After about a lifetime, it turns to 5:56.
I wake up at noon, lie in bed and meditate for a while. I visualize the entire planet, and then breathe in all the suffering in the form of a black cloud, which I take into the pit of my belly. There, it turns into a luminous clear mist, which I breathe back out into the world, enveloping and permeating it with the mist. When I get up, I put on some pants and sit for an hour. Then, I go down and to the studio to say hello to the boys. Dirk has arrived. They’re still getting sounds, etc, so I go into town to the grocery store.
On my way back to the studio, I see a dog sleeping on a sidewalk, curled up in a ball. It looks dead, and an exposed icy sidewalk seems like a bizarre place for a quadruped to take a nap on windy day, so I pull over. I approach the dog cautiously, making sure I don’t spook it or scare it, and pet it for a while. It is alive, but it looks sick or something. I see there’s a number on the tag, so I get my cell phone and call the number. Just as the phone starts ringing, someone walks out of the house we’re in front of, and comes over to get the dog. Once I see the owner, I imagine the dog is just depressed to live where it does. ‘Nuff said.
Back at the studio, they’re still getting sounds up. I make visual diagrams of the Deltarama, and post them conspicuously in the control room and main room. I have my own little room in the studio, from which I can see the band and Alex while I work. It’s nice. I know how Picard must have appreciated his ready room.
At 6pm, we still have not started recording yet. I had set 5pm as the time when tape needed to be rolling. But, I knew this would happen, so I’m not stressed about it. It is what it is. Alex is tired too, and needs some sleep. Although he and Jimmy and I all went to bed at 5am, Jimmy and Alex got up at 9am and started working. I slept in.
At 6:30 we start recording. The first song we do is Rock Stars and Models.
At 7:01 we are switching snare drums, and talking about how many stops to have in the song. We decide there will only be one full stop, which will come right after the bridge when I say “k-k-kiss me!”.
Neil, our leader, has gone to get some food, coffee and film. Not porno films, but camera film. So we can shoot some porn.
At 8:00 we have done about five takes, and haven’t got the one. We tweak certain sections, listen back in the control room. It takes some effort to be patient. I’m probably grumpy too, since I need to eat about now. Today I’ve had an apple, lots of carrots, and lots and lots of water. Jimmy’s had a case of beer, two bags of chips, and a pack of cigarettes.
Enrique has had a cookie. Dirk ate a stray cat. Alex has not eaten at all, which is fine, because he didn’t get any sleep.
At 9:30pm Rock Stars and Models is done, including vocals and backing vocals (which I did in a falsetto voice). Dirk still has to do an electric guitar overdub, but we will do that at the end of the night, or more likely at some wee hour of the morning.
Neil, our leader, has been kind enough to bring me a hockey stick to use during the sessions. I’ve brought my skates since it’s winter and we’re in rural Minnesota. I’m planning to go skate one night after we’re done. Not tonight, it’s 15 below tonight. Extremely cold. And we only have one song completed.
Alex has the toughest job among us. He shows up way before we do, has to scrutinize every detail of each part in the mix as its going down, and he never gets a break. When the band is done putting down their basic tracks, they go have a break while I do vocals, but Alex stays put and has to work with me. Nothing can be done without him. So, we ride on his back in some sense. Traditionally, he gets sick when he makes an album. However, there is a change in things this time around, as Alex has quit smoking. I quit drinking (going without for a year, it’s just a crucial time for my practice and I can’t afford the anesthetic effect it has on my consciousness) and smoking. I had to quit smoking, although I was only having a cigarette every other day or so, it was still screwing up my voice, and I wanted this record to be the best yet, so I quit a month ago, and it’s been fine.
So, Dirk and Jimmy are smokers, but Enrique, Alex, Neil, and I are not. I believe that ratio would be reversed in most studios. But what kind of rock band are we, anyway? Where are the hookers, the drugs, the smashed TV sets? And, it’s not very rock n roll to sing about God all the time, but, on the other hand, it’s not very religious to say “fuck” in your songs about God. I blame this all on the band.
Right now we’re getting ready to do the song “Dive”. The boys are in the control room cookin’ up some drum loops. I feel much better, having sneaked off to the house to get a power bar.
Well, it’s a bit later now, and in one sense I feel a great deal worse, cuz I just broke up with my girlfriend on the phone. I won’t go into the experience of loss and ache, but it is deep. There is a profound connection between us that goes way beyond romance, and the waves of pain with that connection dying are tremendous. But, at the same time, I feel utterly alive in a Love that never disappears. While the ache of saying goodbye to a soul-twin is steep, I am directly, immediately permeated with the Mystery, and nothing changes that. That Love is there before we are born, while we live, and after we die. It has no beginning, no end. Love exists beyond time, and there is nothing that is apart from it or outside of it. Having this woman in my life helped me to fall awake inside that presence, and when that happened, in a way, my life both ended and began.
It’s 10:53 p.m., and we’re almost ready to do our first take of Dive. I love this song, and it’s one of the pillars of the album.
I just asked the band if there was anything they’d like to say to the fans who might be reading this on the web site, and none of them responded except Jimmy, who gave me the finger….well, gave you the finger.
I think recording is a lot like war. You sit around bored, doing nothing 99% of the time, but then there’s a battle, which lasts four minutes, and people get killed and saved, etc. We sit around in the studio (except Alex, who is constantly working) for three hours, then we record for a half hour.
It’s ALEX here. I finally got some sleep. About 9 hours. Hallelujah! I woke up with Dive running through my head. I had a dream about another band adopting a philosophy in the same spirit as our “Deltarama.” I’m ready to, as the paragraph above says, battle on, all day long.
I’m trying to make the studio a more creative place for myself. The only problem is the pressure I put on my self and the obvious pressure imposed by our time constraints. It takes a lot of the fun out of it. I ask myself, “Why do I even do this?” [end Alex]
STUART: Hmm. Yes, I’ve asked myself the same question, during rehearsals. I wonder “Why do I make albums?”. It’s certainly not because there’s some big demand for my music out there, I’ve never sold more than 6,000 copies of anything. I just made an album in my house too, which was just me banging on things and such. It was possibly my most enjoyable recording experience to date. While that was more fun, I know that the recording we’re doing at Pachyderm will have a lot more to offer in depth and dimension, and will probably have a longer life span.
It’s 2:46 on the second day, we’re working out arrangements of Ladder. Enrique came up with the idea of a pedal on the chorus, which has improved the song a lot. It kind of came together at that point, as we all noted how much the chorus was sounding like La Bamba. Much as I love Los Lobos, that’s not necessarily the vibe that suited for lyrics like
The fish became a lizard
The shrew became an ape
Will the ape become an angel
(ba la la la la Bamba…)
We have yet to do a take.
Despite being way behind schedule and breaking up with my girlfriend who I am with deeply in love (yes, you read that series of words right), I feel wonderful today. I woke up at noon, laid in bed, meditated. I ate a bowl of blueberries for breakfast, and I just feel open, light, and wonderful. There’s a lot of pain too, but it moves through like water.
I think about this album, and how it keeps coming back to water as the metaphor for God, and I consider how we are in this studio surrounded by snow, frozen water. There’s also a creek running through the property. I remember a song I was working on recently:
Every winter the garden goes dry
Ice takes the river
Grey takes the sky
I take your body
and hide and that place
feeling you breathing
over my face
In this eclipse
the shadows have the stage
and we are frozen
so the ice can have its age
but ages are small
and love melts them all
into a waterfall
Every winter the wind makes a sweep
Drifting the snow
and I drift asleep
Nothing can wake me
except the embrace
and the breath of an angel
over my face
In this eclipse
the shadows have the stage
and we are frozen
so the ice can have its age
but ages are small
and love melts them all
into a waterfall
Alex wanted me to mention my cell phone. He says that it’s a huge part of my life, and that he thinks I’m afraid to talk about it. I laughed very hard when he said that, a big belly laugh. It’s just sounded so hilarious, to be in denial about your cell phone. Well, let’s see, let me address my cell phone behavior, then. I guess for starters, it’s my only phone, so I have to use it if I want to receive or make phone calls. But, the irony of Alex’s statement is that the most common complaint I get from people is that I NEVER answer my phone. About half of all messages I get make some reference to me not answering my phone. So, I don’t know. I check my messages about three or four times a day, but I don’t feel that’s excessive. Perhaps Alex has seen a cell phone addiction that I’ve missed. Since it’s my only phone, my bills are exorbitant.
It’s 5:113 p.m., we’ve finished Ladder. I got some particularly good vocals, and I recorded the entire vocal track in one take. It wasn’t that hard, as I’ve been singing that song forever, and I did lots of pre-production.
We are now moving onto the song Babies, which is brand new and I haven’t been able to tell whether it’s good or not. It’s very timely though, and fits with the albums theme. The lyrics are:
Here’s to all the babies
that I’ll never have
This house is empty
and I don’t feel sad
Here’s to all the babies
that are here right now
I want to love them
I will somehow
I stole this body
to make this trip
When I left heaven
to find your lips
I came to kiss you
and touch your face
without a trace
In love, in love, in love
I have a baby
inside my chest
I nurse the heart
with every breath
I am a baby
inside this dream
where demons laugh
and angels scream
I stole this body
to make this trip
when I left heaven
to find your lips
I came to kiss you
and touch your face
without a trace
If you need a baby
then when I die
I will find your belly
and crawl inside
It’s 6:37pm, we’ve been getting sounds up on Babies this whole time, and it sounds un*ucking believable!! We’ve got distorted bass, an old hollow body electric guitar which is running through a Leslie keyboard thing, and a drum loop that is distorted and wild. It’s a perfect match for the vibe of the lyrics, and my voice is in exactly the right place to nail this song. I know we are going to have one cool ass take when this baby is done. I’m very excited about how its sounding, and the song is so new, there is still the sensation of watching it take shape before our eyes, it’s forming beautifully.
I just asked the band if they had anything they wanted to say to the fans who visit the web site, and Jimmy gave you all the finger again, and everyone else ignored me.
We are now setting up to do Doppelganger Body Donor. We call the style of this song Vaudeville Von Sprockets. It’s gonna be a wild one. Enrique says he won’t be able to play this album for his kids. Jimmy says he’s gonna pull a Loraine Bobbit on me, because I keep telling him to “play it like this” as I rub my crotch slowly and seductively. Despite his intermittent impersonations of a closet homosexual northern Minnesota outdoorsman, he finds this body language unsettling, and relates this to me through gestures of his own, pretending to spear me with drum sticks and the like.
Tonight Dirk brought in a copy of the National Enquirer that says scientist have proven heaven exists inside the Sun. There’s even a picture. I say somebody from Arizona wrote that shit.
10:30, we’re doing drum sounds.
Ok, it’s now….(I have to ask the band members) Sunday. I missed a whole day of recording journals, as we were working full guns on Fault Lines, Swim, Invincible, and Savoring Samsara. Everything is going well, and I am feeling very relaxed and full of love. I’ve had great meditations, during recording and during zazen.
The set up here is pretty ideal. First, Pachyderm is located out in the woods, a beautiful isolated spot outside Cannon Falls that’s hidden away but still convenient. Included in our rent is a huge house (the architect was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégés) which has an indoor pool, five bathrooms, four bedrooms, big high ceilings, and lots of enormous windows that overlook the river that runs through the yard and the rolling wooded hills. The studio building is about fifty steps from the house, tucked into a little rock formation. The studio is quite large, and my favorite feature is the enormous window that looks out into the woods. This makes a HUGE difference when you’re working 15 hours a day for a week straight, having a 12 foot high window full of natural scenery is very energizing and calming. The inside of the studio building is the nicest recording facility I’ve ever been in, actually. Very cool design, large, spacious.
Anyway, the bedroom I have in the house is the master bedroom, since I’m the damn boss here, right? One wall of the bedroom is floor to ceiling windows, and I do my sittings facing out over the river and trees, everything is under a blanket of white snow, which has been softly falling since we got here. Winter does not get much better than this, not too cold, a dusting of snow making it feel like you’re walking through a luminous painting.
Just now leaving the house to come over here, I stepped outside and started to dart my way over the building, then I stopped, took a deep breath, and raised my head. I had been running with my eyes on the ground, so I just opened my lungs and my eyes at the same time, and started walking very slowly, feeling the sensation of each foot making contact with the ground, and being awake to the awesome play of shadow and light that I found myself in; Silhouettes of trees against a soft gray sky, white clouds over everything, and I realized that there was water all around me, water touching everything, right here in the dead of winter. Then I thought of the lyrics to Drown, which we’ll be working on tonight-
Love is under me
Endless water, endless water
So why am I thrashing around?
There’s nothing to fear
I’m ready to drown
And nothing’s gonna change
I’ve always been water
nothing’s gonna change
I’ve always been…
Love is under me
Love is over me
Nothing’s gonna change
I’ve always been water
Everything is water
Feeling that Presence inside me and all around me, tears begin to roll down my eyes. Water there, too. This began this morning, sitting in front of that window, being with all the people in the world. My teaching to myself for the day was to consider what family is.
What would I do if one of my brother were to get a disease? What if my brother got Alzheimer’s? How would that change what there is between us? I love him so deeply, and I know how much he loves me, and of course that bond is not broken because of a disease. Even if he forgot who I was, or said things that were crazy, or behaved in ways that were painful to him or me, it would hurt a lot, but it wouldn’t change the love between us, and my place in his life, which is to be there for him, to love unconditionally.
In my heart of hearts, there is no doubt that all men are my brothers, and all women are my sisters. There is an intimacy among all humans that is immediate and profound, and that is the presence of God that is inside and around all of us at all times. Sometimes people in our family go crazy, and they suffer from confusing diseases that make them misperceive how things really are. They forget things, forget who it is that they’ve made the object of their fear and hate. How should I treat one of my siblings if they go crazy? Maybe they’re drunk in a bar and want to pick a fist fight, or maybe they are treating the cashier horribly, or maybe they are the leader of a powerful country that drops bombs on people. What cures insanity of the soul? Sometimes, love. This is literally the case with our family all over the world. I think this might have been what Christ was getting at when hanging from the cross he said “Forgive them father, they know not what they do.”
When I was walking through Dresden and I saw a man going berserk, punching street signs, attacking strangers, it was a clear example. Obviously, he’d gone crazy with rage, there could not have been anything personal in the violence I was seeing, he didn’t even know anything personal about the people he was attacking, he hadn’t met them before. He didn’t know who we were. If my brother were suffering from a mental disease, and I went to see him in a hospital, I would not take it personally if he screamed “fuck you!!!” and tried to choke me. He has forgotten who I am, he is misperceiving, and it doesn’t make me love him less, and it’s nothing personal. That is how I felt about the man in Dresden, it was sad and painful.
This is what I want to remember about people all over the world. First, they are my family, my place is to love them unconditionally. Second, many members of the family are currently suffering from serious diseases, they have forgotten who they are, and who I am, they are full of an impersonal fear that expresses itself as violence. I want remember love, and if I can, help them remember too, and also keep them from hurting themselves or others. Loving people does not mean I’m incapable of differentiating between good and bad. Anger still has a place too, it is often an indispensable tool for a healthy psyche/ soul, as Wilber says, it can be an immune system. There’s saying that goes “do what you will with a person, but never shut them out of your heart”. I think this is true. I can’t tolerate violence, but I should never shut the aggressor out of my heart.
In disappearing in universal love, we embody it.
Hey, I thought this was a recording session journal.
We are now about to work on Dresden. The drum loops are sounding awesome. They are actually quite old, Dirk and I had pre-produced this song and recorded loops for it over a year ago, before we even made Bright Apocalypse. I was going to put it on that record, but then when I decided that CD would only contain songs about Godhead, I had to drop it. The band was furious when I did that, we were in this same studio, exact same band, and it was last summer. When I told them we weren’t going to do Dresden, they freaked out there was damn near a coup. Jimmy offered to pay me $150 if I recorded it. I said don’t worry, we’ll put it on the next album, and it will fit much better. They all said I was full of shit, but here we are, a year later, and we’re doing it. It was the right decision, as it’s sounding killer now. All the elements have cohered and this is the right album and time for this song.
Dirk thinks this song will be a big hit in Europe. He should know, he’s German. That would be nice, and it would be my first European radio action on any sizable scale since 1996 when Nomen Est Numen was out over there. I hope Radio One hasn’t forgotten me.
yo,yo,yo,yo, this is JIMI. Stuart wanted me to write something in his journal. I really didn’t want to because I’m a drummer and I don’t have much to say because I’m a drummer. I said I would if he pays me more, but he won’t, so that’s when I punch him right in the face. Which made me feel really good because I landed a solid shot right on his nose, but that’s when he started bleeding pretty bad, I mean really bad. So that’s when I started feeling bad, cause I punched him pretty hard. Anyway, I decided to make him happy and write something, so here it is.
Hola. Este es ENRIQUE Toussaint. Estoy grabando las partes de bajo en el nuevo disco the Stuart. Como es costumbre, me estoy divirtiendo muchisimo en el proceso. Jimi, Dirk, Stuart y Alex estan llenos de energia creativa. Creo que entre todos formamos un grupo muy congruente y con sentido. Hemos tratado cada cancion con personalidad individual. Esta sonando inteligente y con mucha fuerza.
Ha sido un placer ser parte de los proyectos de Stu, pues me siento mas cerca de el y de todos los demas. Es como una familia con un fin comun. Es especialmente agradable ser aceptado por este grupo de gente, que a pesar de mi edad, respeta mi energia creativa y cree en mi habilidad de tocar y crear como si fuera de su edad. Me siento muy contento de ser incluido. Gracias
ALEX: Damn it! Enrique DOES spell his last name “Toussaint!” That’s how I originally had it on my web site. To verify the spelling I referenced the Bright Apocalypse liner notes. There it was spelled “Toussant.” So I called my web designer, Marcus Johnson, and had him switch it on the first day of our session. I asked the whole band to gather around the computer to see the photos on my web site of our last session here at Pachyderm—the Bright Apocalypse session. Enrique didn’t mention it. He was just being nice.
I sound like I’m not making any sense. It’s understandable. We’ve had four intense days here so far. You know, it’s true—the musicians wait around most of the time and then play for just a few minutes a day. The thing is, I’m “on” the entire time. And you know I take my work seriously, so I’m getting a little dazed. But I’m loving it because, despite the time pressure, this is a wonderful creative outlet. Stuart has created a context for himself and the other four of us to do what we do best. I said this to Stuart. I thank him for providing the context via his songs and this time in the studio for us to be creative and build this record.
I’m going to dinner now. Anthony, Haven (and Dirk too probably) have created an amazing (this is an understatement) feast for us up at the house. I’m having some blood sugar deficiencies so it will be doubly good. END ALEX
(ENTER STUART… not ‘n a gay way…) So, it’s the next day, and we’re now working on Drown. We got up, and Anthony and Haven had made us another amazing meal, this time it French Baguette-French toast with real whip cream, maple syrup, fresh squeezed orange juice and a bowl of assorted fresh fruit. After a relaxing breakfast, we head over to the studio and listen to our take of Dresden which we finished last night. Sounds awesome. This is possibly my hardest rocking record yet, or most….what? Wild? Cool? I don’t know. But there are many new sounds and textures that have not appeared before. I think it’s perhaps my best collection of songs yet. I think that every time I make an album, but this time it’s sounding like it really is a move forward. I also just finished a CD that I did entirely in my living room, and that one is entirely acoustic. This one we’re doing now is almost entirely electric.
I realize most people get introduced to my music through acoustic performances, but if I had my way I would tour with a band most of the time. I simply can’t afford to do it. I enjoy performing solo very much, but I don’t do it out of some sense that I believe the music should sound that way. If money were not an issue, I would take a band with me all the time, and do a part of the show solo and the rest with a band. I loved making my acoustic album too (which will come out about six months after the new band CD), but I really feel there is much more depth and dimension to working with a band. Of course I respect people’s opinion when they say it’s more intimate and exposed when it’s just me and a guitar, and I believe that is true much of the time, but I also feel it becomes one dimensional and limiting, especially when it’s a full length recording. And, I really don’t listen to acoustic music. When I do listen to music, it’s stuff like The Call, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Bjork, Talking Heads, Live, J.S. Bach, Peter Gabriel.
So, last night, Anthony, Enrique, Jimi, and I were sitting around the table after everyone had gone to bed, and the subject of ghosts came up. Supposedly, the Pachyderm house we stay in is haunted. There’s all sorts of stories around it from people who’ve stayed there. I’ve never seen anything, and I’ve spent weeks in the house. Enrique, who is very sensitive in such matters, says he does feel something in the house. Enrique would know, his history with ghosts and spirits will blow your damn mind, and there’s no doubting that he’s experienced some pretty deep shit in the paranormal realm. Anthony agrees with him that they feel something in the house, and Anthony had bouts with other non-embodied entities (some which were invited….no, I wouldn’t say he’s a sorcerer, but…). I myself had never had a run-in with anything until the week before we went into the studio. I was laying in bed at my house in Minneapolis when I distinctly felt a presence next to me in bed, sort of sitting down with me. I popped right up immediately, and told it in no uncertain terms to get the fuck out of my house. It left, and I wasn’t really that scared, I had more of a feeling like ‘damn, it’s 5:55a.m. and now I’m supposed to go back to sleep? What a pain in the ass’. It never came back, but it was a weird thing. I don’t worry about it much, I feel very protected.
We also touched on the relationship of alcohol and drugs to being molested by these entities. Anthony and Enrique agreed that alcohol and drugs make a person more vulnerable to these negative energies, or whatever you want to call them. I would have to agree, and it’s actually part of the reason I gave up alcohol. I also have had several very, very bad experiences where I was so drunk I went into paralysis and was attacked by demons. I do not mention this lightly, it was the second most terrifying variety of phenomena I’ve ever encountered (the first being the death seizure in meditation). Anyway, what was really interesting was Enrique relating how he’d also experienced it the other way around, where his paranormal experiences went up, or increased in frequency because he was so clean, so clear. So, he’s saying that yes, you do become more vulnerable to these scary entities when you’re under the influence of chemicals, but he also feels they gravitate to him when he’s very pure, as though he is more of a threat, more of a challenge to them when he’s in that place. It does seem to be the case, the more that a human being wakes up to new dimensions, the stakes increase. In my view, there is nothing exotic about ghosts or non physical phenomena. The psychic domain (and I’m using the word ‘psychic’ here in the sense of Wilber’s model, which goes Psychic, Subtle, Causal, Nondual, with each successive stage transcending and including its predecessor) is a normal realm of experience for any being awakened to the reality beyond the personal. In a sense, it is an infantile spiritual space, the shallow end of the mystical pool. Since it’s relatively easy to access the psychic realm and play with the powers there, teachers warn against the danger of getting stuck there. There’s nothing wrong with elementary school, but if you stay there too long, it’s not a good sign. Some mystical traditions characterize the psychic realm in this way, a normal part of spiritual development, but no place to linger. It’s especially precarious because it’s easy for the ego to hijack….
Oh, I took a break there for a few hours to go do some tracking, and when I came back and read what I wrote in the above paragraph, I had a feeling of “oh, just shut up, you jabber mouth”, so I’m going to drop the subject on the precarious nature of unfolding spiritual levels. I’ll just finish it off by saying the Psychic realm is the shallow end of the pool. I often feel I just shouldn’t say anything about spirituality at all. What is there to say?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
ALEX: I had a bit of a melt-down last night—a quiet meltdown. It’s a matter of caring too much. My job is to re-present (re-late/reproduce) the hopes and dreams of each artist and player and I take it very seriously. And these four are some serious players/creators. I put too much pressure on myself. It’s a funny coincidence: this session is going great and it’s been fulfilling for me creatively and in the midst of it I release the stress of a year’s worth of sessions. Stuart and I talked for an hour or so after our blow-out Anthony/Haven dinner. I had gone into my room to take a nap. This was around midnight. I couldn’t sleep. Stu came in and asked if I was O.K. END ALEX
ALEX: We just had another meal ala Anthony. Japanese style. END ALEX
DIRK: Making a record takes patience, focus, dedication, inspiration, passion, commitment, understanding, humility, honesty in short, the characteristics best displayed by our new president, George W. Bush. If we can achieve the same quality of performance in our music as Bush is currently achieving running the world, I mean our country, than we shall be successful. I must admit, I didn’t vote for that moron, but he did win, and that’s important. Everyone likes a winner, and we want to win making this record, which is important. Stu tells me that we aren’t actually competing with anyone, which is fine, I can accept that. But running a country isn’t easy, especially one that cares so much about the well-being of our fellow humans, especially those living in all those loathsome countries that might decide to haul off on us with an intercontinentalballsiticmissile. Nobody wants that to happen, to us. So, yes, its important that we try to make music that doesn’t leave any children behind, so that they can be indoctrinated with a misguided, insatiable hunger to accumulate products they don’t need, but help alleviate the sense of utter hopelessness caused by trying to live the American Dream. Music is good for that. CDs are relatively inexpensive, and all those loathsome poor people who might decide to haul off on you with an assault rifle just because you have a new car and would just as soon see them in jail on trumped up drug charges can always get music free on Napster. That’s called copyright-infringement and can result in a bothersome fine of $500. But you can gobble up way more than $500 worth of music if you hurry. I’ll bet even we’re on there somewhere.
But seriously folks. Being able to collaborate on a project with such a talented group of musicians is what it’s all about. We have had a terrific time working together these past few days, and the music sounds great. At times it can be frustrating, mostly because we could easily spend twice as much time crafting these songs, but good recording studios (and good musicians and engineers, for that matter) are expensive. Still, there is a sense of spontaneity to these performances, and that is not always easy to achieve in a studio environment. We definitely set out to create a different vibe than the one on Bright Apocalypse- a more experimental sound. For me this meant using guitar sounds which had a hint of electronica, as well as some ‘spacier’ sounds using a lot of rhythmic echo. I did some of that on the last record, but pursued it more methodically this time. The result, for me, is a more consistent sound to the band.
I was also glad to have finally finished ‘Dresden’. Stu and I started a demo of this tune nearly two years ago, but he didn’t feel that it worked for the last record, so we left it. This week we came back to it, and actually used some drum loops and old guitar parts that I had put on the original demo version – it was awesome to have the whole band play along to that old version. It’s a powerful song, one of my favorites of recent Stuart songs. A bit of trivia: my father, his two sisters and their mother were actually in Dresden for the bombing (which should be classified as a war crime as far as I’m concerned) and all of them miraculously survived, though the rest of the family did not.
(STUART RETURNS) This is great! The band guys are joining in the journal work. I’m excited, now I only have to get Neil to put something in, and Anthony. But Anthony is up at the house. He’s now made us three awesome meals. Today has been such a great day, we’re all having fun, relaxed, we’re getting great music and really enjoying each other. It’s a great privilege to be working with these people. Everyone here is a tremendously gifted artist, and they’re all amazing people. I believe we’re making the best CD in my catalogue to date.
We just finished Immanence, and it turned out incredible. We played it super fast and with raw unbridled energy. I made a rule that no one could fix their part, you could double it, but no overdubs and no fixes. I told everyone to play like they were thirteen years old and they were performing in a rock band at an outdoor all nighter high school party, set up on a wagon inside a big barn. The boys came through, and the take was a stand up affair, messy and perfect like teenagers boning their drunk brains out.
Now we’re about to do Surfaces. Jimi is having fun with his sampler, recording all kinds of funny sayings in his Mr. Sample. He’s lining up all these sayings in a thick Indian accent and playing them simultaneously.
“You are fatiguing me”
“You’re going to get a beating”
“Oh my Godless West”
We also just found out that the Clash recorded on this same board. Should I Stay Or Should I Go and Rock The Kazbah were both recorded on this board. Live did Throwing Copper here, Nirvana, Soul Asylum, and others did CDs here too.
ENRIQUE here. This is it for me, tomorrow I go home. It has been a great experience, both socially and musically. To be a part of a creative endeavor with such talented people is truly a blessing. We struggled a bit with Surfaces due to overplay, but I think in the long run we’ll be pleasantly surprised. In general, this recording is eclectic but very cohesive. I’m very happy with the results. I love collaborating with Stuart, Dirk, Jimi and Alex, it brings about a part of myself I don’t get to put to use on a regular basis. Thank you Stuart for involving me and making me a part of your creative space. I love you.
STUART: Another side note on Dresden; When I was on tour in Germany, doing a show at Club Barenzwinger, I stayed with a woman who, like Dirk’s family, survived the bombing. She was with her family in a house, and told them they should all leave the house and run out of town. They didn’t agree, and for some reason she ran out of the house and ran over the bridge out of town. The bridge was blown up shortly after she got over it, and her whole family, like pretty much every other human in Dresden, was incinerated in the fire bombing. I completely agree with Dirk that it should be classified as a war crime. The unspeakable atrocity of that act is something that is strangely absent from the education of our children in history books. I had never heard a damn thing about the fire bombing of Dresden until I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five. Then I went to Dresden, and that it affected me deeply. I think U.S. citizens have a nasty tendency to misrepresent and misconceive history, our education suffers from an omission of our unspeakable crimes against humanity. Dresden surely falls in that category, and Dirk can make you a list as long as your arm.
Particularly disturbing as of late is the United State’s use of depleted uranium bombs in Kosovo and Iraq. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but a little bit of knowledge about what our government’s up to leaves a very sick feeling in the gut. I’m trying hard to be open minded regarding the new administration, but I have to admit that when I see president Bush’s face, I see a human being full of fear. People in positions of power tend to express fear through aggression (using anything from legislation to war) The configuration of muscles on Bush’s face, which externalize the reality inside the skull, convey unmistakable fear. It’s very hard to imagine how someone who has systematically executed over 250 people (each an unconscionable act of murder, in my view) will use his position to serve humanity at home and abroad. But, you never know. Miracles happen.
What kind of studio journal is this?
So, which is day eight of our work, the band has packed up and left, and now it’s just Alex, Dirk, Neil, and I working on overdubs. It’s the last day of recording, and we’re doing guitar parts and vocals. We’ve recorded thirteen songs, they are
Rock Stars and Models
Doppelganger Body Donor
We had a conversation today which was about Immanence. Everyone agreed it’s a raw, cool pop rocker that kids could go crazy for, but the title ‘Immanence’ is just boring grown-up crap. It’s so dry and erudite, so we knocked around the idea of changing the title. Since most of the songs on the CD are one word titles, I decided to change the title of Immanence to:
Sex Is Proof The Holy Ghost Crawls Around In Stuff That’s Gross Yeah!
That easily qualifies as my longest title ever. It will really stand out on the album liner.
Didn’t sleep much at all last night. Meditated most of the night, just doing a mantra, one I’ve used for years now, “My Lord is my love, my love is my Lord”. This is one I often come back to throughout the day too. At times it’s become so woven into my consciousness that I’ve literally continued doing it through the dreaming states.
Dirk just finished cutting an acoustic guitar track on Surfaces, which he then doubled. Normally I would play that part, but we have Dirk here at our disposal, and there’s just no getting around the fact that he is a far superior musician in this zone, and we can get it gets done much faster and sounds better with him doing it. It takes him no time at all to crank out the parts. The level of artistry in everyone involved here is quite remarkable. I know I’ve said it before, but you really don’t find better musicians than the ones we have here. I’ve always said that having these people play my songs is like taking the space shuttle to the corner store.
After today we’ll be done recording. In all, we’ll have two days of rehearsals and six days of recording. Then, we have four days of mixing ahead of us, which takes place in a few weeks at a different studio which is in Minneapolis, Seedy Underbelly. When we’re done mixing, we have to take it to be mastered, which is kind of a final step on the sonic end of things. In the week or so in between recording and mixing Anthony will finish up design and artwork, which is a crucial component in the success of the project. Being a consummate professional, Anthony came down to the studio and listened to the music so he could get a better vibe for how to represent that visually, and then, being an incredibly thoughtful person, he cooked us gourmet meals for two days. It’s entirely believable, as that’s what loving humans do. The designs he’s kicking around are totally kick ass, and I know we’re going to end up with something really cool. He’s a great designer.
The photo session for the artwork was all done in black and white film. I was totally nude and painted in silver metallic body paint from head to toe, doing a bunch of different yoga poses. It turned out way cool. Then Anthony found this special paper, and started charting the visual map, and we are on our way to the coolest looking artwork out of anything in my catalogue. This is my 10th album, counting the one I have finished from my house, but haven’t released.
It’s weird to think I’ve been doing this for ten years now. I still feel like a kid in so many ways… my bed-wetting, my Star Wars lunch box, my Red Rider bb gun. I’m probably in better condition physically than I’ve ever been, and have more energy than ever. I also feel like I’ve found myself as an artist and have a solid sense of the context my work takes place in. Pop music is an integral spiritual practice, and the ideal vehicle for working toward collective transformation. Post Apocalyptic Records is a mystical Octopus with a tentacle on every part of human experience.
Dirk and Alex just laid down a guitar part on Surfaces, an electric part that’s quite kick ass. Never before have I heard the sound their using, I can’t describe it, you’ll just have to hear it. Quite inventive, those blokes.
ALEX Jimi is an amateur crack-up. He could be a professional crack-up. He should have his own show. He could seriously be on Saturday Night Live or something. His wife, Mo Collins, is on Mad TV. I remember seeing Mo perform at the Bryant Lake Bowl a coupla times. She was a stand-out. I just want to say that Jimi is one funny motherfucker. He is funny as Fuck. He is so fuckin’ funny. He makes me wish I could record an album with him every other month. I think I could learn to really laugh freely if I hung around Jimi enough. I know I sound like the freakin’ work-in-progress human here, but I think we’re all going for the same thing: figuring ourselves out and letting go and finding truth. Easy.
“Stuart? Line two.” Enrique on the phone to check in and say hello and thank Stuart. Stuart says he’s the one who has Enrique to thank.
Enrique is awesome. He knew I was tweaked out a little and without saying anything gave me many reassuring pats on the back over the last few days. Enrique, I thank you.
STUART FUCKIN’ ROCKS
Dirk and I are a dangerous creative combination with these guitar tracks. END ALEX or whatever.
STUART: Alex and Dirk have been going over and over the electric guitar part on Surfaces, I just got back from the store. Dirk is playing an ebow on his stratocastor through some weird filter, and they have to go through it for hours, there’s something really sensitive about the combination of elements, the guitar is super sensitive. Dirk has suffered measurably on this song, as it took him about four hours of playing the hook in the verses last night, and today he’s been going over the chorus part for hours and hours. The repetition has wrung the joy out his part for him, but his spirit is light and everyone is still in a good mood. When I ask Dirk if he has any parting words as we leave this song, he says,
“It’s the Stuart Davis song I’ve played the most.”
When I ask Alex the same thing, he says,
“My sisters initials are E.L.O.”
We all know that stands for Electric Light Orchestra.
So, it’s interesting to see what has happened with Surfaces. The song was inspired in a very unusual way. I was in an airplane, flying home from a meeting with the Integral Institute. I had been talking to Ken Wilber about my plans to do a four CD set based on his four quadrant model (see earlier journal entry for an explanation of the four quadrants, or pick up A Brief History Of Everything), where there would be one CD for each quadrant. So, to begin, I made a list of all the songs I’d ever written, and plotted them out using the four quadrant model. Briefly, the quadrants are Interior Individual, Exterior Individual, Interior Collective, and Exterior Collective. As I mapped the whole of my catalogue, and started to see which songs would go on which CD, I noticed a dearth of songs about exteriors. So, I decided to work on balancing my catalogue, and I began writing songs about exteriors. The first two songs to come out of that were Surfaces and
Surfaces was then inspired by a photo of my girlfriend at the time, which is on my refrigerator. I only have two things on my refrigerator, a shot from her modeling portfolio, and the Heart Sutra (…”form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form”, etc). I keep the two of them side by side, and each day I look at the photo of her and then read the Heart Sutra. The photo of a perfect face, a perfect body, and right next to it, The Heart Sutra reminding me, ”no nose, no eyes, no ears, no arms, no feet, no teeth, ….” This is an important practice for me, a great way to experience the unity of opposites. The perfect form of her body, the exquisite contour of those surfaces is not separate from or other than the Absolute. The Absolute was never born, never dies, has no beginning, no end. The Absolute sometimes takes the form of finite realities, like a human body, or a tree, or a star, or an atom, but the Reality behind the reality never changes, the infinite is always in the finite. So, part of my daily practice is looking at that photo, reading the Heart Sutra and experiencing that unity.
Well, it’s 6pm, and Dirk and Alex are finishing up guitar overdubs on Dresden. It’s a pretty bad ass song. Intense. We’re probably eight hours away from being done with recording. The entire record will have been recorded in six days, which is just incredible considering the quality and depth of the music. Most bands that come to this studio to make a record like this would stay for a month or two. Major label budgets being what they are, they take a lot of time. However, since I’m an independent label type artist, we can not afford to be here long at all. We have to go very fast, and literally record all the basics in three or four hours. But, if you have a good song, and great musicians, and a great leader at the helm in the control room, then you end up with a kick ass song. I myself am not a studio cat. My strong suit is in writing and performing, and pre-production. I don’t have the constitution for studio work, scrutinizing the minutia of a kick drum sounds for five hours makes me want to violate all ten commandments.
I think I’ll go over to the house and get started on that now.
Ok, it’s Wednesday. We’re done. Two days of rehearsals, seven days in the studio. I’m cashed. As we try to leave Pachyderm today, there is about a foot of fresh snow on the ground. My car is parked at the bottom of the hill, where the studio is, and there is no way in hell it can make it up the icy slope. So, after a half hour, I give up and call a tow truck. The tow truck comes out to get me in a half hour, and the grumpy driver looks at me like I’m an idiot, and the first thing out of his mouth is:
“It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, driving your car down that hill today, was it?”
I laugh out loud at this, a bit incredulous at his bizarre condescension.
“Well, actually, we’ve been here for a week, and there wasn’t any snow on the hill when we arrived.”
He snarls back
He pulls me out with a chain, and then we’re off. Dirk takes my car home, and Alex and I ride back to Minneapolis together. The roads are horrible, but the drive is awesome because we listen to Peter Gabriel’s Security album. It is really some intense music. I’m totally blown away by Peter Gabriel, I think he’s one of the greatest pop artists ever.
Alex had asked me if I wanted to listen to some of the songs from our sessions, but I just don’t have the stomach for it. I need a break from my own music, and I’m eager to get away from the studio. I just want to take a bath and read a book, and leave the project behind for a while.
However, I am truly excited about this CD. I think it’s the best one yet, artistically and technically. It also is a new sound for me, one that is very distinct in my discography. This recording marks a new chapter in my art, and I have Alex, Dirk, Enrique, and Jimi to thank for that. I gain so much from their examples, in art and friendship. Thank you guys, for teaching me so much. My love and gratitude to each of you.