The first thing that I wrote in January 2001 - in my new apartment in Southwest DC - was "Boy Seventeen". The music for that song came very quickly and the lyric did as well. This was unusual because most of my songs aren't hatched that easily. Of course, just because I wrote it rapidly does not mean that I finished the studio work as quickly. I didn't. I ended up carrying various mixes of that song around with me on cassette and I would hear things in those rough mixes that I didn't like. So, I would go back and tinker with the original tracks over and over for several months. Much of that tinkering was done during the summer of 2001. I was doing some television work up in the Northwest part of the city near Tilden Street and I would take long walks and listen to that track over and over trying to figure out how I wanted it to end up. It was eventually mixed when I finally got so tired of hearing it that I couldn't deal with working on it anymore. I think it's an interesting track because it combines the sounds of two of my favorite artists: Pet Shop Boys (who I worked with in 1986 in a video capacity) and Depeche Mode.
Also, this song features "the wall of voices" trick that I learned long ago from listening to Lindsey Buckingham records. That is, you record dozens and dozens of separate, breathy, atmospheric vocals which takes weeks sometimes and is extremely boring to do. But in the end you get this huge, ambient "wall of sound" that is just fantastic. I've done this many times because I love the way it sounds and I did it on this song---and strangely (to me anyway) many people think the whole thing is synthesized. As in: created on a machine.
I beg to differ. All those voices are me - overdubbed a zillion times. I really have forgotten exactly how many takes were piled on top of one another but it went on for more than a week, so it must have been a great, great many. Art is pain.
BABY YOU'RE A BIG STAR NOW
This one had already been recorded when I moved into my new place. It had even been mixed. But when I decided to put it on the new album I went back and remixed it and even chopped some sections of the original out and shortened it a bit. The club mix version (which might eventually be released) is considerably longer but not necessarily better for the extra length. I have a terrible fear of being boring and overly repetitive so I didn't mind cutting the track a little. The song (if you can call it that) was originally written at Halloween 2001 after seeing my good friend Dan dressed up as Judy Garland. That's what inspired it. And it does have this big, celebratory vibe to it that makes you want to hit the dance floor. The big ending was something I came up with because I didn't want to fade it. I can't remember why. I just wanted to have a big, movie-star ending so I put in the kettle drums etc. and created this really nice finale. It's a fun track.
This track is just flat out gorgeous if I do say so myself. It originally had lyrics but I finally decided that no lyrics could do that music justice. It's just too lovely to be restricted by words. The name Rosemere comes from a novel-in-progress that I may one day release. In the book the name refers to a huge house that the lead character lives in. I suppose Rosemere literally means roses & water? I have been told that the word "mere" means "body of water" or "lake" I think. Maybe someone can correct me on that. Whatever it means, the track is one of my absolute favorites because it's so beautiful and it pretty much came out the way I wanted it to. I had a guy in Finland write to me and ask if he could put his own words to it. I told him to have fun. Once again, in my opinion, this is really, really gorgeous music - and it needs no words.
NEW WORLD COMING
This track was licensed in 2007 by the gigantic NOKIA cell phone company for inclusion on one of their products in Europe and Asia. The song started out with just the part of me humming those ascending 5 notes. That was taken from a completely different song that never went anywhere. It was just a little snippet of backing vocal and I looped it and ended up building New World Coming around it. I think NWC has one of the most outrageously fabulous drum arrangements that I've ever done. It was extremely dense and complicated and I remember greatly enjoying doing it.
It was mostly done on the Roland MC505 Groovebox with some supplemental percussion from my old Alesis D4 drum machine. But there are literally 40 or so percussion tracks before you even get to the other instruments.
If you wonder where this track came from...it reminds me of the vibe of an old Elton John tune called "Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance)". I believe it's off of "Blue Moves". Anyway, it's a cool groove and I like the way it builds until you have this huge thing - which hopefully once again makes you want to get on the floor and dance because the new world IS coming...
SCOTT IN ALASKA
This track (and the whole album) is dedicated to a long time friend. He once spent a summer in Alaska. So, now you know. Anyway, not long after I had moved into my new apartment last year, I had a dream right out of nowhere about him being on mountain-tops and seeing glaciers and grizzlies and in my dream there was a little satellite hovering over it all up in space amongst the stars. This track was written that night - after I woke up from the dream and went into the living room where all my studio equipment was set up. I just sat down and played a few basic parts so I would have it down and not forget it - and then I went back to bed. Later I fleshed it out. I dream music a lot and am often disturbed in the middle of the night by musical ideas which somehow enter my brain without permission. Lyrics on the other hand are something I actually have to work hard at. But actual music, for me, is automatic and that's how I got this track.
GLAMOUR & DAMAGE
This one has two distinct sections which are easily discernible even to the unmusical ear. For several minutes you get the 'glamour' part which symbolizes for me the experience of going out to the clubs and having a high old time. Then you get to the second part which is the 'damage' bit and that's all about the pain, the paranoia and the destruction of one's health and mental condition because of all the bad things you've done to yourself the night before. The whole ending section with the trumpets and so on was inspired by having just seen Tina Turner in concert. I was trying to "Tina-up" the end of this track.
This one is not about me getting snockered. Oddly enough I wrote this track immediately after coming home from seeing Steven Soderbergh's movie "Traffic" which dealt with the whole subject of drugs and the law and politics etc. I thought the film was very good but I thought I could have made the music better. So, I came home and recorded this track just to prove to myself that I could have done a better soundtrack for Mr. Soderbergh. Maybe he'll hire me someday. This track was really just a fluke. I never intended to release it - and it was recorded really quickly. Nevertheless, it came out rather nicely. I remember those drum fill parts were taken from a little Casio keyboard toy which I EQed and flanged to make it sound bigger. It's a cool track. I think my oldest son Neil (yes I have kids) has that old keyboard now.
GOD DAMN YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL
This one was written for someone special. I guess the lyric is self explanatory. I thought this person was very lovely to look at and this song was inspired directly by that kind of physical beauty. Of everything on the record I think this one has the best chance at modern rock radio and probably the college stations as well. It has a great chorus hook if I do say so myself.
Written for an old friend when he started going to therapy. There are several versions of this song floating around as bootlegs on the Internet. This mix is just a really laid back, ethereal, ambient version. But quite beautiful I think.
ABOUT YOUR SOUL
This is a techno-dance track that was issued in a shorter version by 3000 Records on their compilation CD "Listen NUDE" last year. I like this one a lot because it never gets boring. Lots of parts and cool samples.
THE SECRET LIFE OF BOYS
The title track is about going to the baths. If you don't know what that is Google it. Maybe put the word "gay" in front of the word "baths". Specifically this was about the Washington Club baths - which has been torn down to allow the building of a new stadium in DC. This track was inspired by what could be called "the secret life" of the baths. The lyric asks "Why can't I tell you about the secret life of boys?" Probably because you wouldn't believe me if I did.