cake or death
c.o.d. is a side project I?ve been working on for a couple of years. we finally
finished our record and it has just become available at blacklabworld.com. I am
completely psyched about this thing and thought I?d let you in on the story of
a couple of years ago, three very close friends of mine who live up here came to
me and said ?hey, herr rock star, why should you get to have all the fun. we
want to be in a band too.? and I was like, ?whoa, do you really think you can
handle the intense fun quotient we?re talking about here?? and they were like,
?um, yeah, we think we can handle it.?
none of these people had been in bands before. in fact, quite frankly, none of
them played any musical instruments. Joshua, who I?ve known for almost twenty
years, had been carting this cheap Ibanez bass around for a decade but had never
learned to play. Kristin could sing, fo sho?, but she?d never sung into a mic
before and those fourth grade piano lessons weren?t exactly current. Olya grew
up in Russia, without running water or rock and roll, and wanted to play drums.
it seemed like something of a challenge. Olya posed a special problem because in
order to play the drums, one has to do different things with each hand and each
foot. kind of like driving a car except when you?re driving a car your hands
and feet are all doing different things which lead to the same thing:
maneuvering the car down the road without killing self or others. but with the
drums, all the different things are doing both the same thing (as in the
horrifically difficult task of hitting things at the same time when they?re hit
at the same time, keeping steady tempo) and very different (right hand playing
steady 8ths, right foot playing on the downbeat of 1 and the upbeat after 3).
not easy. try it sometime. it?s a nightmare. you start trying to play
something and your brain instantly jams up like an LA freeway after a shooting.
but Olya is also special in that, as a massage therapist (the best on the
planet), she has tremendous control of her various limbs. AND, extra bonus, she
is pissed. by which I mean, you could say, she has an anger-based personality.
probably why we get along so well. of course, all good drummers are extremely
angry, and all great drummers are nothing short of psychotic. dunno about her
psychosis level. still sussing it out.
anyway, they had this guy named Andrew (who happens to be my brother) playing
guitar, so I said no problem, I?ll teach you how to do this. I showed Olya the
torturous drum patterns she would have to pound out for hundreds of hours in
order to gain even a passing competency. I made a little chart of the notes for
Joshua, showed him how to finger, and basically left him alone to figure out what
to do with his right hand. Kristin stuck to the mic and tinkling with one hand
on my expensive Roland keyboard. Andrew pretty much knew what he was doing, so
all I had to tell him was to play fewer notes.
I worked with them on learning some covers and would check in from time to time.
It was cute.
then Andrew had to quit. they had no guitarist, and for some reason (feeling
left out no doubt) I agreed to step in.
now, I have never played lead guitar before. I have always had guys who actually
knew what they were doing for that. but I thought what every human thinks when
offered the possibility of playing lead guitar: cool. I?m gonna get to play
you may or may not know my position on guitar solos. guitar solos suck. they?re
a wankfest. they?re uncreative. only geniuses like Michael Belfer should be
allowed to play guitar solos and even they should probably play a lot fewer than
they do. if you must have a guitar ?instrumental? section, please do the decent
thing and play a freakin melody. or just do like Kurt, and play the notes of the
of course, these rules all apply to OTHER people playing guitar solos. not me.
special rules apply to me: since I can?t really play guitar, and barely get by
strumming first position chords (always the same voicings), I have infinite lease
to wank away in the vague hope of coming up with something someone would want to
listen to. so, guitar solos ?R us.
additional rules: Olya, since she didn?t know how to play drums, couldn?t play
fills. just the beats (which she was quite good at). this is awesome, and
something I have wanted from every drummer I?ve ever played with. she didn?t
have a problem with it. she just likes hitting things. also: Joshua, who had
been dreaming of laying down fat sticky grooves, was not allowed to play anything
remotely resembling reggae.
so, long story less-long, we learned covers, and we sucked really bad. this went
on for a year. it was strange. we sucked (and I mean hard) but it was fun.
like high school. then I went to LA and came back to find they were jamming.
yes, jamming. it was kind of cool. I sang on top of it, told Joshua to play
something different for the chorus, and it was almost, dare I say it, a song.
this happened repeatedly over the course of the next year. I would go to LA,
come back, and make their jams into songs. we were a lot better playing our
songs than Tom Petty?s songs, since you didn?t really have to know how to play
your instrument to play our songs. it was one of the good things about our
then the songs got better. Olya got better. Joshua started writing bass lines
that were unlike anything else. Kristin started bringing some serious melodies
with nice phrases dug into them. we worked harder and the songs got even better.
at some point, I said, just for a laugh, ?we should make a record.? it seemed
cool, right? just toss off a record on my protools rig. no pressure, just for
the only problem was -- the stuff had gotten really good. Fleetwood Mac
harmonies called out for a late 70?s sleaze production treatment. Kristin?s
excellent singing alongside mine demanded some decent guitar playing. the lyrics
and transitions started to come together and the balance between 80?s melodicism
and the pomo aesthetics of right now found a nice balance. it was all too good,
actually, for just a toss-off recording process, as I discovered nine weeks in,
trying to make the tracks as good as the songs.
I sweated blood I swear. it feels like the best combination I?ve ever gotten of
spontaneous, no-pressure songwriting, brute-simple performances, and micro-tweak
production. dry, moody, at times pissed or horny or goofy, this record brings a
true taste of variety to my thing. I think this shit is tight, and the people
so far who have heard it tend to agree. I have a suspicion you?re going to like