What I’ve Been Up to Lately (Mr Xquisite, pt. 1)

It’s that time of year again… School’s out in a few weeks, and my mind is turning toward creative projects I’ll want to tackle over the summer. Right now, I have two in mind. The first is a short work of nonfiction about a fairly obscure album by a legendary band that I’ve always been a fan of. Assuming all goes according to plan, the other project will be an extremely obscure album by an even more obscure band that nobody has ever been a fan of–yet!

With any luck, I’ll get to talk about the book project somewhere down the line. For now, here’s what’s up with the music…

My friend Shaun Haurin got in touch with me a while back to ask if I’d be interested in writing some music for a concept album he had in mind. He and I met when we were both on the editorial board of a local literary magazine, and then we were in a couple of writers groups together. A few years back, I edited a volume of short stories he wrote for PS Books titled Public Displays of Affectation.

Given our track record of working together, collaborating on an album sounded like it could be fun. But there was a catch: Shaun has no real musical training to speak of. As a result, we frequently have conversations that go something like this:

Me: Any thoughts on how you want this one to sound?

Shaun: Hard-driving and fast, like a maelstrom of sound and fury with a real punk edge. Like someone losing his mind. Completely schizophrenic.

Me: Like this?

Shaun: No, not like that. More like the Cure’s “Pillbox Tales.”

Me: Uhh… (Taking a second to find the song on YouTube.) Okay, like this?

Shaun: Kind of. But with the sound of breaking glass. Not actual breaking glass, but the sound that the sound of breaking glass sounds like. Something big we can use as a leitmotif throughout the song.

Me: Wow. Leitmotif.

Shaun: Nice word, huh?

Me: Very nice.

Shaun: I learned it in college.

It’s a challenging process–and fun, too. I’m writing music that I never would have written on my own, and as a result, I’m also pushing into new territory. Here’s a brief snippet of the song we were working on when we had the conversation above:

Definitely different from anything I’ve recorded in the past! The song is called “The Bride (A Web of Men),” and it’s based on Marcel DuChamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. (Hence the “breaking glass” request.) So far, we have rough sketches of three songs down, and there will likely be a total of nine for the whole project. They range in style from very heavy (like “The Bride”) to mellow and jazzy.

Shaun has proposed Mr Xquisite as a band name, and the album will be called Doppelgangerous, as his lyrics swirl around themes of doubling and duplicity. In terms of my own role in the project, I’m reminded of something I read about the recording of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Basically, Roger Waters described the sounds he wanted, then David Gilmour and the other members of the band brought the album to life. Of course, working relations in Mr Xquisite are much healthier than they were in Pink Floyd, so we should be able to get the album done without all the melodrama. (Or so one hopes.)

More to come as our work continues…

Life at the Pace of Objects – Remastered!

First, let me say that I’ve always hated when my favorite recording artists issue remastered versions of LPs and CDs I’ve already purchased. Earlier this year, I bought Morrissey’s Your Arsenal only to see a remastered edition available the following week — and the remastered version did sound noticeably better. The incident annoyed me to no end, and yet here I am with a remastered version of Life at the Pace of Objects, the first (and, so far, only) EP I put out under the name Android Invasion.

So why did I do it?

For one thing, I’ve been recording a lot more music lately and putting it on SoundCloud, a web service that allows musicians to upload and share their music for free. As a result, I’ve nearly reached the two-hour limit of music I can post (with a free account, anyway). To make room for new recordings, I decided to take some of the older recordings down. But I also wanted to keep them around in some form, so I started a bandcamp account where Life at the Pace of Objects and future Android Invasion recordings will be available for purchase. This will allow me to keep posting new tracks to SoundCloud as I work on them and then transfer them over to bandcamp as I complete each album to my satisfaction. What this means in practical terms is that if you like my music, you can download it for free while I’m still working on it, or you can wait for the finished, polished, final version and pay for it. I’m happy either way!

Of course, since I’m charging people to download any material I make available through bandcamp, I wanted to make sure they got their money’s worth. S0 I fixed a few things I didn’t love about the sound quality of the tracks I originally put on SoundCloud. For example, I always thought “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” ended a split-second too soon, so I fixed that. And I played with the volume and EQ a bit to make all of the songs sound a little more “present.” I also added a bonus track for anyone who buys the entire album (as opposed to individual tracks). It’s $4 for six tracks, for a total of about 20 minutes of music.

So, okay, I kind of get why my favorite recording artists issue remastered versions of their work, but I still wish I’d waited an extra week before buying Your Arsenal. C’est la vie!