It was about a year ago that I started helping my friend Shaun Haurin with a recording project he wanted to work on called Mr. Xquisite. He wrote the lyrics for most of the tracks (with the exception of an early version of “Fuzzy Logic”). I wrote the music and produced the sessions. The song below, “Secret Sharer,” is the strongest of the tracks that came out of that project. I think we were trying to sound like The Glove. I’m singing on this one and doing my best Robert Smith impersonation…
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…
In the latest installment of my podcast, “Inexplicable Need: An Interview with Shaun Haurin,” I get into a heated discussion with a former student about how to address a former professor and also about the title of one of my favorite short story collections. I then interview Shaun Haurin, the author of the collection, and find out that I was wrong. The podcast also includes a pair of readings from the book in question, Public Displays of Affectation.