Shimura Curves

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Unfinished Business

Yes, I know, I haven't updated this blog since... before Xmas? I don't even know how long it's been. That doesn't mean I've run out of songs or stories. I was - gasp - just busier working on new music than listening to old.

But, back to the past.

This song was a turning point in so many ways.

It was the first time I stopped using my DAW as a glorified 4-track cum drum machine, and actually started getting into arrangements. Started using the DAW itself as an instrument, the ability to program anything at the flick of a wrist, to chop and cut and paste bits of songs, and play with the cut-paste technique as an actual feature of a song, rather than a mere mechanism to get things done.

I was playing around with the samples in the Orkester soundback of Reason, not just putting in little string accompaniments to pop songs - but I decided to try and remember my Classial training from way back in the depths of time, and write a little string quartet in the place where a guitar solo would normally go.

From there, I decided to work backwards, stripping away the layers of instrumentation, almost like I was moving the same motif back in time through musical styles. From guitar-based pop song to orchestral piece to string quartet to Baroque recorder piece, then finally down to the basic level of just unadorned vocals. Then, to duplicate the sound of a skipping record - to reinforce the lyrical motif of a dead, stuck relationship. I didn't actually have a record player in the house to sample the sound, so I ended up sticking a live guitar jack on my tongue to get the right amount of crackle. Yes, I realise this was dangerous and stupid, but hey, one must suffer for one's art and the sound was perfect.

As to the lyrics, on the surface it appears to be about a failed romantic relationship. In fact, I do kind of worry if this was how the Sound Artist saw it, if he thought all these songs about breakups were my subliminal way of telling him something. But no - the song was about my former bandmate - Jane.

It happened at some aftershow party, backstage at someone else's gig - christ, I think it was the Brixton Academy. The Dandy Warhols. I was halfway through a conversation with her when one of her popstar pals walked into the room, and she just turned and walked away, almost mid-sentance, to greet someone she'd been telling me two weeks earlier that she didn't even like.

At that moment, I just thought "Well, fuck YOU."

It was her band, from day 1. That was the irony. Four years earlier, when I'd landed in London with a suitcase and a guitar case, I was *done* with the music industry. I'd done it for a decade, served my time as a session player in NYC, and I was sick of it. Somehow she persuaded me to start a band. I needed the encouragement more than anything. It was much easier for me to write for an audience, to write to spec, to give someone what they want - and her fantasy was being a rock star, so I took her dream as my own, and worked to make that dream come true.

But after four years of life in a touring band, the strains were starting to show. I always knew she was in it for the fame aspect, the ligging aspect - something I'd joked about on songs like "Quite Frankly I Think I Could Do A Better Job Of Being Famous" and "Flavour of the Week" - hell, when I first met her and her partner, they were running a zine tas a way to blag their way into backstage parties. It was a fun joke, a snotty-nosed bratty way sticking fingers up at the grey landscape of landfill indie rock. But after several years, we were living very different lives. We'd both started living in Swiss Cottage, working Nu Media type jobs. She'd got married and moved to the suburbs. I'd quit my job and moved to Hoxton.

Yeah, let's face it, I was a *twat*. A grade A certified hipster scum Shoreditch twat. I was out of control - but after the repressive L-shaped apartment confinement of the abusive relationship I'd recently escaped, I *needed* to be utterly away from any form of control. I hung out cadging drinks off drugs novelists and dissolute painters. I flitted from the Foundry to the Mother Bar. I danced the night away in sweaty basements to drum'n'bass. I mooned the crowd at Nesh and came home finding my purple army jacket had been remixed to green with no memory of the intervening two days. I gulped down drugs and shagged male models, and even managed to get myself written about in the gossip column of an Edgy Style Magazine (TM) for being badly behaved at a certain West End electro club. The night of our album launch party, I took the bus home and modelled nude for a painter I picked up in a bar BECAUSE I COULD. I was an absolute and complete pisshead twat. And I loved it.

And Jane was living in St. Albans and going for sushi with Duran Duran and Fun Lovin' Criminals (no... *really*) because her husband worked for a big label.

I take responsibility for my part in the breakup of that band. Of course my alcoholism played a huge part. I was not a nice person. But at the moment that Jane walked away, I knew that it was over. I was playing a role onstage that had nothing to do with who I was, in order to make her happy, when the disparity between that role and who I had turned into was actually killing me. If she wanted the fun bits of fame - the backstage parties, the sushi, hanging out with David Bowie - David fucking Bowie - without the shit, the slog, the touring, the toilet venues on the way up, the fucking bored out of my mind interviews that I had to do and she didn't - well, good luck with it.

Within a matter of months of that unfinished conversation, my life completely changed. Not permanently, but it was another chapter. A better chapter. I met the Sound Artist. I fell in love. I moved out of Hoxton and that mad life. I practically quit drinking. The bad life fell away, and only this song remained. For now...

Unfinished Business


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