Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I was the best dancer in Switzerland (story of "The Bridge")

I was the best dancer in Switzerland.

Completely true story.

Nothing against the Swiss - sorry, my Swiss friends, for using you here poetically. I mean I clearly am a pretty great dancer, as you saw when I was there. But the reality is... and we both know it... I'm just setting the stage for my new story.

The first song off Powder Kegs Beneath Dagger Trees (PKBDT) is called "The Bridge" and it's a free download during the month of February if you hurry (thanks leap year!)...

And of course you understand that all the "best dancer" stuff is just a big fat metaphor...

Let me explain:

Have you ever been trapped momentarily within earshot of the guy (or chick) in the bar... or on the train... who's running his/her mouth about their sales numbers... and they're really only managing a tiny sales force in a tiny company in a tiny corner of the universe, and taking him/herself way too seriously about it?... They're the best dancer in their Switzerland.

Or perhaps you've accidentally sat next to the insecure and bored 49 year-old dude at the bar who's bullshitting his 50-year old victim about all the "tail" he got over the weekend. That bullshitter's the coolest cat in that crowd, and we all know it now.

Another "best dancer" in his own personal "Switzerland."

The BEST dancer among some obviously sub-par dancers. Complete with flannel shirts tucked into their khakis, they're gonna cut a rug tomorrow morning at their meeting, impressing their colleagues and anyone who will listen with an incessant barrage of life-pausing iphone buzzes.

Yeah they're "numero only" in their little land-locked mountain club in the hills beneath the Coors Light ads at the corner sports bar.

So anyway... you get it right?

Folks whose dreams are fading just slightly quicker than their competitive edge is dulling. And they get comfortable there at the bar stool or couch. Comfortable being the top dog in their pack. Or thinking they're top dog in the pack anyway. Taking every chance to convince the world they "still got it." Instead of pursuing or invigorating new dreams.

Truth is I've been the best dancer in Switzerland a few times in my life. And I've scanned the horizon for my escape route each time... across the river... across that bridge.

Even though you maybe can't swim well and might fall in, you're willing to take that risk and cross that rickety bridge when you finally have had enough (another true story by the way - I was the best dancer in Switzerland... and I just can't swim. Both true stories. I sink. Veek says she's gonna try to teach me some day, but I suspect it's a waste of time. In a past life, I'm sure I was a sailor who drowned, I'm pretty sure. Not sure if it was before or after I was a wolf in Quebec but I'm sure it happened.)

So yeah - this song sets the tone for the surreal journey I take on my new CD and tells that story, more or less. I have to decide whether to cross the bridge and kick this new adventure off.

Heather Perry (if you see her, tell her I still want my amp knob back) and Chris Warren... they tracked the bass/drums "live," with me scratching out an acoustic track in some dude's closet*, isolated like indie recording artists do sometimes. I replaced my scratch tracks with the final guitars later, and built the rest of the record on top of their inspired rhythm section. (This went down at a friend's attic* on the south side of Chicago in 2009. )

* I'd like to credit him but he told me in an email on 10/19/09:

"mix them yourself as you have all the current files and more than enough plugins to get the job done. I dont need recording credit as that is not what I really look for...and I think it would be funnier to write 'Recorded here and there during 2009'. You did a great job on your last release, I know you will do so with these songs."

... so while I'm bummed he backed out, I am grateful that he helped me kick this thing off and let me turn the tracks into what you hear now, and I will respect his wishes and he will remain uncredited, and we won't speak of that again if I can help it (it turned into a blessing in disguise as these things tend to do)....

Heather - who will appear in a video next month - performed with me at the end of the OSUNM promotion, and has various vocal parts on the record too. She was involved in the beginning of PKBDT and was super-supportive at the beginning of the record's production, but along the way was drawn to her own projects, dreams, etc...

In any case, she makes vocal cameos throughout the record as "my alter-ego"... the anima to my animus, if you will.

I dabble a lot in French by the way, if I haven't mentioned that. I suspect that in a past life I wasn't simply a "sailor," as I mentioned before, but rather a French privateer who drowned. (Sometime before or after I was a wolf in Quebec ;)

In this track, The Bridge, my anima challenges me, en fran├žais, to cross the bridge.

(Very proud, by the way to have written these French lyrics in a rush, on the sidewalk, with commuters dodging me - all in one commuter rush - feverishly writing in near-flawless French (so I like to think) on newspaper boxes all up west on Kinzie past the Merchandise Mart stop and up over the river, on the way to work.)

Fortunately Fabien of Fabsound records (a Belgian-born blues man) helped me polish up the verbiage and coached Heather and me with some pronunciation when we tracked at his place. (Later my good vieille amie, Ariane Perret - who reconnected with me after about 15 years via my blog... while I was making maps... at that job I was walking to when I wrote the French lyrics ... corrected two typos on a completely coincidental "hey is it too late? You spelled this wrong" twist of "thank you god" the night before the CD went to press (totally ironic since Ariane is atheist, I think... anyway...) I had to make emergency repairs to the liner note's Illustrator template at midnight (10pm Pacific) and send an urgent email to the production house in Portland, OR with mere hours to spare. Shwew. How cool is that?!?!)

A few other pieces of trivia here, for anyone who cares:
  • That's my Aunt Pat making the first cameo of the record (among 17 cameos) on bells.
  • The tempo was set organically by me and Chris and Heather, "live" in an attic on the south side of Chicago.*
  • Weeds were symbolic for me during the writing of this album too. Veek captured the weeds well on the album art insert. (Which you can get by buying the CD.... or by downloading it too (which comes with a .pdf insert)! ... sorry - shameless sales pitch. I wouldn't be doing my job otherwise.)
  • I've been planning the video for a couple years now. And thinking this is the year it happens. Have a great team set up. Including pyrotechnics. Stay tuned.
  • Switzerland is a tiny place with poor dancers - except for my man Marcus... who now that I think about it, I never saw dancing when we were at the club. He probably knew better.
  • There is a great bridge in Luzern. Great town too. This song isn't about that bridge.
  • While dancing in Switzerland, I sported a Greek sailor hat (that the Swiss dudes had the balls to make fun of while I was upstaging them on the dance floor... a hat that I still have in fact), foreshadowing, perhaps, the Greek girl, Veek, I would eventually marry?! Maybe a coincidence. Maybe not!

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