I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #12 Is Here! 

December 25, 2017
 

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#12: ‘Doin’ the Dishes’ 

Hey kids! Sorry I spaced on the November issue, my bad. Reality happens. Reality is weird. Anyway, I thought that seeing as it has now been a year since I’ve been writing this here dealio that I’d throw in a little bonus. It occurred to me recently that while this entire time I’ve been supplying you all with audio to listen to as you read my b.s. I haven’t ever provided lyrics for some reason. Well, I’m pleased to say I’m rectifying that right now. For the first time ever (and I mean ever; we’ve never even included them in any album packaging, etc.) I am printing my lyrics to all the songs featured thus far on this blog. Perhaps this helps fill in the picture a bit? Just for fun I have created a   new page on our website containing all the lyrics to each song. Now while you’re excitedly reading about and/or listening to these awesome tunes you can follow along! 

So, if you’re new to ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ feel free to check out every action-packed second of all our past issues and if you’ve been following this column faithfully from the beginning (which if you have THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!) then maybe go back and re-read them all, this time with the added enjoyment of printed lyrics, whoopee! Sorry, no bouncing ball though. Anyhoo, I figure it’s the least I can do as thanks for reading my monthly rag. That said, let’s get to this month’s victim: the mighty rocker that closes side one of 2014’s Day 5, ‘Doin’ the Dishes’. 

You don’t know just what you’ve got 

My memory is flashing to a sunny afternoon when I was about 16 or so. While riding the route 41 bus out to Evergreen I had a most peculiar little epiphany. Either I was listening to my Walkman or just something in my head (see issue #10), but suddenly I noticed what could best be described as spontaneous visual accompaniments, rhythmically attached to the music I was hearing. Although varying in intensity and frequency of occurrence, these experiences were generally pretty subtle. Upon intuiting that there might be something happening here akin to the thing at the bus stop back in kindergarten (also see issue #10), I tried to actively participate whenever suspecting this would-be ‘extra-sensory’ conundrum might show up again to confuse and amuse me. 

Apparently it’s a thing called synesthesia whereby one’s senses get crossed. A common example of this is ‘seeing sound’ as vibrations manifest visually. It’s hard to describe; very abstract and kind of peripheral. I’ve never perceived any discernable forms, it’s like random colors and squiggles wiggling and bouncing about whatever physical environment I happen to be in at the moment. It happens sometimes when I shut my eyes, too. Anyway, it’s weird and kinda cool. Synesthesia isn’t really the point of all this, it’s just an entertaining curious quirk. It struck my attention around the time I first started writing songs and likely influenced my perspective and approach. 

Now I’ve brought up several occasions whereupon I was inspired and whooped up a song in my head on the spot, not being anywhere near a musical instrument. What I haven’t really touched on however is the real-time environmental aspect of inspiration. I become aware of the sea of sounds surrounding me. I’ll isolate specific, individual ones and incrementally layer them unconsciously, occasionally resulting in a creative spark that might turn into a song. It’s like hearing songs within all those sounds. If you listen hard enough, there’s always a song. 

Don’t fall down, don’t get up 

Sometimes when I’m busy doing something completely unrelated to music and I’ve got like a zillion thoughts invading me all at once, my brain tends to leapfrog. My OCD will kick in and I’ll fixate on this, that and the other. Frankly, it comes close to pushing me over the edge so it’s a welcome relief when the useless noise gets knocked away by constructive/expressive noise. One day years back at my old place I was literally doing the dishes when I mentally staggered into the main riffs that would eventually drive the song. A lot of times it’s as if melodies and chord progressions will just fly by. It’s like music exists everywhere in the ether in one big never ending symphony. Every once in a while I just so happen to rip a chunk of it out and fix it into something I call a song. 

Songs are snapshots of moments in time. In this moment I’m not sure if it was the rhythm of the running water clinking in a pattern against the stainless steel sink, the cat scratching the couch again (like she knew she wasn’t supposed to!), the wood pecker outside off in the distance pecking away pointlessly or some combination thereof, but the gnarliest, Soundgardenesque riff materialized in my mind and just would not leave me alone. The whole thing is so random and I often get caught up in an odd stream of consciousness musical mumbling habit while doing things like walking down the street, waiting in line for stuff, going to the bathroom and in this case, doing the dishes (not all in that order or at the same time). Remember, if you care to listen (or look) hard enough songs are everywhere, all the time. 

I’m gonna break my rusty cage and run 

- Soundgarden (‘Rusty Cage,’ 1991) 

So, standing there at the kitchen sink, gloves on, greasy dishes soaking, I was once again ridiculously overwhelmed by those zillion stupid little thoughts. My mind was getting carried away. Thankfully, music showed up to block out the bullshit. When my brain starts leapfrogging thought to thought on overdrive it’s like a virus; multiplying, intensifying, mutating. It becomes difficult to follow one train all the way down the track, so to speak. That’s why it’s wonderful when the system intermittently crashes altogether. I get a moment of mental respite, clarity and oxygen which never lasts long enough. Sometimes I re-boot via a pleasantly nagging song diversion. 

There wasn’t anything especially noteworthy as far as any kind of grand scheme on this one, I just thought it really rocked (also, I could see purple and greenish squiggles jumping all over the place out of the corner of my eye as I recall. Whatever that means?)! It’s fairly musically straightforward as far as my songs can tend to go and remains virtually identical to that afternoon standing over the sink with steel wool scraping my skin. I jammed it out a bunch around that time with various friends in my basement, but mostly just kinda filed it away with so many other orphan songs and fragments. 

From the outset I’d always called the song ‘Doin’ the Dishes’, partly as a working title that fit for obvious reasons, but it was more than that. I sensed an abstract expressionist vibe happening (ha-ha!) To me if it were a painting it might conceptually aspire to convey an urge to purge one’s psyche; doing the ‘mental dishes’ as it were. Again, I digress. My explanation for the process of writing this song is turning out to be more of an effort than the actual composition of the song itself. 

Suffice it to say it went for a long time without definite lyrics which I ultimately wound up improvising one night during band rehearsal shortly after Luke joined the group. Sometimes the right the thing to say just jumps out with zero conscious awareness of it’s meaning in the moment. I often find that I pretty quickly take note of the passages or phrases I begin to favor or gravitate toward in relation to the music. It’s important to me that music and lyrics fit together like lock and key (which isn’t to say the two cannot be mutually disparate in form or tone if that kind of contrast is what the ideal expression of a song calls for). I prize when I can tell what a piece of music is trying to say even without words or singing. 

Hell is your friend, welcome home 

I don’t know if there’s any specific deep meaning behind ‘Doin’ the Dishes’, but I can tell you I was in a personal hell at the time and I needed to scream. In combining all the screaming, drowning cries of bloody murder with a dark, catchy melody the vocals serve to more than effectively enhance the pissed off feel I was reaching for. It’s one of my favorite Day 5 songs and one of my favorite HW songs, period. Dig the juxtaposition in the way ‘All In This Together’ segues into ‘Doin’ the Dishes’ at the conclusion of side one. The entire band were in the room at the same time recording the song live, in real-time, no overdubs except for vocals. Seriously, any time you can get a tune to tear up on a record the way it does when you rock it live, well that’s really something. That’s rock n’ roll and I think we pulled it off here. 

Happy Holidays! Shazbot, Nanu Nanu

 

 

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #11 Is Here! 

October 31, 2017
 

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#11: ‘End of Civilization’ 

Hi! I waited ‘til the last minute again, but here it is. The world is so screwed up I thought an appropriate song of mine to ruminate over this time around would be a pleasant little ditty from 2010’s Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe called ‘End of Civilization’. A bit of a colorful history surrounds this one and in my estimation at present people have lost their minds. So, we’ll see where the vibe takes me. Here goes...

Pick your poison, better make it good; no regrets, understood

Not sure how to start this story. Maybe I’ll think out loud about how badly the misery and desolation I perceive everywhere I look is really beginning to affect me. Ok, it’s not beginning; it’s been growing for some time and gotten worse. I’ll be honest with you, reality has me in serious despair and it’s making me sick. Zombies abound all around. Lately I wanna stand on the sidewalk and just stick my leg out to see how many fuckers I can trip as they blindly stroll with their glassy eyes glued to their mobile devices. All this soul sucking gentrification happening bugs the hell out of me, meanwhile the desperate reality of the homeless situation is spinning out of control. Yuppies seriously need their asses kicked and don’t get me started on dudes with manbuns!

Oh yeah, and can anyone tell me how is it that tattoo parlors are as common as Starbucks now? Also, I wonder how so many people wound up drug-wacked lunatics with backpacks on and sleeping bags draped over their shoulders all day long wandering downtown aimlessly and screaming at garbage cans? As we speak our planet has already irreversibly tipped over the edge in regards to human accelerated climate change. Racism, homophobia and hatred in too many forms continue swelling toward critical mass. Our government is corporate owned, infrastructure is crumbling and people are being consumed by their insatiable consumerism. 

Out of frame now, we’re out of touch; we love ourselves way too much

Instant gratification is dulling the senses and destroying the desire to dream. True romance is dead. Selfies are a sickness without a cure. Andy Warhol hit it on the head in 1968 when he said, “In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Mediocrity is lauded and narcissism is an accepted norm whether folks want to admit it or not. People pass around their prefabricated personalities like sloppy seconds in an online orgy. Everyone is supposedly connected now more than ever, yet lost in his or her own world. Or maybe it’s just me? Like in Richard Matheson’s 1954 science fiction horror novel, I Am Legend, maybe I’m the different one, outnumbered by the zombies? What am I to do if I don’t want to fit in with this nonsense? Maybe I’m more alone than anyone else I’m bitching about? There are so many disturbing, unanswerable questions but one thing is for certain: things are a mess. 

Self-expression or self-abuse?
What's the point? What's your excuse?

But, I digress. I need to get back on track here and connect this shit with the song I’m supposed to be talking about. Besides, if you’ve continued reading up to this point and not said fuck this! out of disgust or distraction you have to be thinking shut up, old man Taylor and get on with it already! Ok, well a long time ago I came up with a series of cool guitar riffs that I strung together and tried to match up with a manic poem/diatribe I spewed out early one morn following a chemically crazed all-nighter. I called it ‘Playing with a Lighter’. It was a spiel about being at the end of my rope (not unlike this!) I wrote it as I sat calmly and insanely flicking a lighter over and over. 

That thing was too crazy and went nowhere so I strip-mined the riffs sometime later, recycling and incorporating them into the songs that eventually became ‘Woke up at Zero’ and the one we’re talking about here. In the context of the original song, the verse riff from ‘Woke up at Zero’ (a groovy song that appeared on our 2013 EP, 3 in D) was the verse and the segment that wound up as the bridge section in ‘End of Civilization’ was actually the chorus in ‘Playing with a Lighter’. Also, the end chorus tag from ‘End of Civilization’ was the conclusion of the song it was robbed from and it actually climaxed in what became the main verse riff to another song that landed on Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe called ‘The Rats Are Leaving the Ship’. Sorry if that all sounds a bit tangled and confusing, the main point is I found better homes for some killer riffs in the songs they needed to live in. 

All the stupid things we say will come back to haunt us still; don’t pretend they never will

Now let’s go to the part where the song became an actual song. I was seeking an avenue for expressing my revulsion at reality which was pretty much akin to my earlier ramblings in this piece. From my vantage point I saw a delusional collective unconscious marching rapidly toward self-destruction. Now I know that from time immemorial there have been dudes like me cautioning of the dismal future awaiting us all as a result of our short-sighted false sense of invincibility. Still, you gotta call ‘em like you see ‘em. 

Electro-shock birds and bees 

One of my favorite films is Mike Judge’s satirical, dystopian 2006 epic, Idiocracy. It presents a very funny, albeit disturbing image of a future drowning in its own stupidity due to generation upon generation of morons breeding more rapidly than intelligent people. In 1729 a fella named Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay titled A Modest Proposal. His dissertation offers up an idea to solve the economic woes in Ireland exacerbated by famine and overpopulation: let poor people sell their kids to rich people as food. In the spirit of Judge’s twisted forecast for tomorrow and Swift’s rather ‘practical’ solution to the social ills of his day I half facetiously suggested my own answer to humanity’s current clusterfuck when I pulled the pin on a little grenade I called ‘Mandatory Sterilization’. 

Short people got no reason to live 

- Randy Newman (‘Short People,’ 1977) 

I thought it was a great title for a song. However, it soon became apparent to me that it may be slightly misunderstood. The rest of the band reasoned that folks would likely interpret the catchy title as a reference to Hitler, the Nazis and ethnic cleansing. Now this was NOT my intention at all. Honestly I hadn’t even thought about it in that way until they brought it up. It really bummed me out because, as I said, I thought it was a catchy phrase. Believe it or not we actually did perform it live once or twice for an audience. Before long I relented, changing the name and altering the lyrics. Seriously though, I have a memory of playing Olympia Artswalk and singing that song before a sea of about a hundred people without it even dawning on me they might be going what the fuck?! For the record, I still think it is pretty hilarious. Oh, well. 

This wouldn’t be the only time I’d change a song name out of concern. For example, ‘Strait Jacket for Two’ also from Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe was originally titled ‘Jack Daniels and a Shotgun’ which I previously discussed in issue #3. Then there’s a great tune called ‘Mating Accident’ from 2014's Day 5 that had a real humdinger of a name initially that I won’t even get into here; maybe we’ll take a look at that one another time. 

A mass hallucination 

When I knew I’d have to come up with something else to call this song I tried to think of a title that fit rhythmically with my melody and still maintained the gist of my original sentiment. I thought to myself, what’s perhaps a more suitable umbrella term that would encompass the multitude of ways our world is imploding? What phrase might best resonate to cement my impressions of society’s giant circle jerk into oblivion? A-ha! The end of civilization, yeah that’s it. In a way it’s a broader, yet more potent and direct statement than the original title even was. Plus, it was certainly much less likely to result in me getting my ass kicked due to misinterpretation. I don’t know how Randy Newman pulls off that kind of thing so successfully, but I applaud him. He is awesome. 

It don’t matter, sing along 

No matter the title, it’s a catchy, sarcastic song that sticks in your head. It also totally fucking rocks. I love the way it’s sequenced on the record spilling into ‘The Rats Are Leaving the Ship’ which we used to typically perform live back to back in the same manner. ‘End of Civilization’ is yet another song that becomes perpetually more relevant. It’s all unravelling; it’s only a matter of time! 

Come to think of it, is this song merely an observation or is it a wish? Hmm… 

Thanks for indulging your morbid curiosity and peering inside my weird world. I hope this little ray of sunshine brightened your day! Smell ya later…
 

We’re rednecks; we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground

- Randy Newman (‘Rednecks,’ 1974)

 

 

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #10 Is Here! 

September 30, 2017
 

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#10: ‘Poptart’ 

Man, my OCD is just killing me lately, no joke. It’s getting super difficult to get on with anything or see the forest for the trees. I am mentally, emotionally and spiritually disoriented, disheveled and disintegrating. Anyway, here’s my attempt at the moment to try and string some thoughts together. Maybe this will make some kind of sense. I’m gonna go ahead and talk a little bit about ‘Poptart’, a good song off our first album, 2008’s Only If…And Even Then

Here we go again 

Previously I’ve mentioned my penchant for sometimes composing out of the blue and almost completely in my head with no musical instruments around whatsoever. I like writing that way a lot actually. In fact I’ve been doing a fair amount of it again lately. For me it’s just about the purest form of inspiration. Spontaneous ideas pop out of nowhere and if I bother to pay them some attention or if they’re just kinda catchy they might hold my interest long enough to pursue further. 

One morning when I was about 5 or 6 I remember standing at the bus stop in my neighborhood waiting for it to arrive and take all our stupid little asses to school. It was the bus stop by my babysitter’s house. Every morning my dad would drop my brother Kyle and me off at Mrs. Hayes’ (she was the sitter). She was super Christian, had about 5 kids, a big mole on her face and she chain-smoked. Their house reeked of cigarettes and the front door was always open wide for anyone to just walk right in. She also made us go play outside all the time, even when it was raining. That really has nothing to do with my story; I was just having a little flashback. Kyle knows what I’m talking about. Where was I? Oh yeah, so on those mornings, sitting in the cab of my dad’s old green GMC truck waiting for it to warm up in our driveway, we’d play Beatles 8 track tapes. We had Sgt. Pepper, Let It Be and Abbey Road. On this particular morning it was Abbey Road and my brain was stuck on the song ‘Come Together’. 

Still can’t find the tune 

Anyway, I’m standing there with the other kids waiting for our ride to Evergreen Forest Elementary and I had a strange experience. I thought for some reason someone at the bus stop was playing a radio with ‘Come Together’ emanating from it. When I said something to Christina (one of Mrs. Hayes’ many offspring) about how I’d just been listening to that song and that I liked it a lot she looked at me puzzled. She said there was no radio there playing The Beatles or anything else; there was no radio around at all. It sounded exactly like the record was playing though in my head and that was when I realized it must have been ONLY IN MY HEAD. Seriously, I could hear every nuance, every inflection, clear as day within the confines of my own brain, totally inaudible to everyone else. 

As time went on I came to find that when I sang a song spontaneously and unaccompanied I tended to sing it in the actual key it was performed in on whatever recording I’d originally heard it from. I mean it wasn’t just the melody I could recall note for note with little effort, it was the exact key and identical to how I’d heard it. Think of it as a Walkman (or if you don’t know what that is, an Ipod) permanently accessible in-between my own ears. Now this didn’t seem all that strange to me, I guess because it was happening to me and felt, well, natural. Once I figured out this wasn’t happening for everyone else it started to dawn on me this might be something of a unique phenomenon. Years later my piano teacher, Mrs. Jackson, explained to me that my ability to identify a specific pitch when I heard it or sing a particular pitch when prompted with no que or point of reference was known as perfect pitch

I guess where I’m going with all this is that I’ve developed a pretty good mental/intuitive grasp on tonal relationships. When it comes to songs taking shape entirely in my head I feel like I can hear the whole song already completed, like I’m hearing it on the radio or a record or whatever. My knack for exploring various chord intervals and inversions internally as a song reveals itself to me has often resulted in some fun, colorful chord progressions. In particular I’ve always had a tendency to favor bass lines that diverge from the root note in chord voicings. I talked about this a little bit in my piece about ‘Misspoken’ (Issue #5) and that song was one of the first times I made a conscious effort toward playing with that technique. ‘Poptart’ was like that, except I took it up a notch. 

Take this one to heart 

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been intrigued by the role the bass fulfills as far as influencing the emotional impact of a song, even before I knew what the bass actually was. An early memory in regards to this concerns the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’ (Franz Gruber, Joseph Mohr, 1818). As a kid I observed how various versions of the song elicited different emotional responses in me when I heard them. Some sounded more joyful, others kind of sad and mournful (it was the latter, by the way, that I preferred). I wondered what could be the reason why the same song could sound and feel so different. 

It wasn’t until much later on when I started playing musical instruments (first piano, then guitar and, ironically, lastly bass) that it all began to make sense. Also I loved The Beatles and The Beach Boys and recognized both Paul McCartney’s and Brian Wilson’s tendency toward off the root note bass playing in their compositions. Songs like ‘Michelle’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ (The Beatles, 1965, 1967), ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ (The Beach Boys, 1966) all implore this method with magnificent results. In a sense this is pop music approached from a classical perspective and perhaps that is in large part the way I tend to lean when I compose. The big point I’m trying to make though is that my natural inclination is to write from the bass perspective and the choice and placement of bass notes is of utmost importance when considering the desired emotional response a composer wishes to elicit in a listener. 

Bearing in mind that off root oriented bass lines can take a relatively straightforward chord progression and make it much more interesting, it was in this spirit that I surrendered to the muse when I put ‘Poptart’ together in early 2001. I should mention that I had been listening to Squeeze quite a bit (another of my favorite pop groups ever!) and was tantalized by their compositional arrangements in relation to exactly what I’ve been talking about here. Songs like ‘Up the Junction’ (1979), ‘Pulling Mussels [From the Shell]' (1980), ‘Is That Love?’ (1981) and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ (1982) were relentlessly stuck on repeat in my brain. I was enamored with the way such sublimely catchy melodies were so expertly situated atop already enticing, meandering and occasionally unorthodox chord progressions. Add to that some very clever lyrics that seem to pair perfectly with the moods of the melodies and man, what great songs! 

Innocence was cruel, time for something new 

This was all very inspiring during a period when I was living in a weird limbo hell. I found myself in the awful position of (gasp!) still living with my ex-girlfriend following our break-up. I do NOT recommend this to anyone. No matter what you have to do, get out! Break away, completely. The pain and confusion I experienced was utterly excruciating. I hit that wall so many people do when they resolve that they cannot and will not ever be capable of fathoming the opposite sex. Why couldn’t I make love last? You certainly can’t make someone feel how you want them to feel if they don’t feel the same way. This sucks, especially if they once felt quite differently toward you. True heartbreak is the realization that your star has fallen from the sky of the one you love. 

I’ve stood here before, though I thought that I’d learned more by now 

The more I tried to convince myself I was okay, the more spiteful I became; consumed by an unquenchable longing and pining for a day I knew would never come. I was burnt out on love. I had trouble letting go and was sure I couldn’t and wouldn’t love again. ‘Poptart’ is my pondering that ridiculous old saying 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Those words seemed like a rhetorical bullshit statement to me. The sentiment in this song has resonated like a broken record in my life ever since. 

Getting what you want is always never enough; it makes you passionate, but it makes you throw up 

cyclone of uncertainty once again found me bursting with creativity. There’s something about channeling uncontrollable emotions seemingly too painful to endure through art and music. I’ll never understand it, all I know is it’s probably a very good thing as far as sanity goes. That winter I was in the middle of a pretty big songwriting jag, trying to work all this shit out for myself. I can’t say it totally resolved anything per se, but it provided some solace and helped me exorcise some demons. 

The way this song germinated in my mind as I paced around my house alone one evening was at once melancholy and exciting. In the spirit of those Squeeze songs I liked so much I found myself treading darkly comical waters I was futilely attempting to navigate. I messed with the bass note placement in the chord inversions pretty much from the get-go until they matched the color of my mood. The chord progression in its entirety poured out rapidly and the melody fell right in with it almost simultaneously. I can’t recall specifically if it was the lyrics that suggested the melody or the other way around, it all happened so fast. I do think the ease with which the melody ascends and descends the major scale is a fitting and oddly natural match/juxtaposition with the accompanying manic lyrics. Each verse swells until it explodes into a chorus that has no words! I thought then and still think now that it’s weird a chorus can exist without singing in a song that is otherwise not instrumental. 

I can see it through 

All in all, ‘Poptart’ represents a direct, almost instantaneous line from inspiration to realization, entirely in my head. I was so manic and twisted up when I wrote it I couldn’t even sit myself down with an actual, physical musical instrument to hear how it all checked out until the next day. Similar to the genesis of ‘Misspoken’, I figured if I could hold it in my head (and in this case, actually sleep on it) then it must not suck. 

Well, it did check out and reaffirmed my experience of that morning at the bus stop way back when. Not only that, it suggested to me that I’d likely be capable of creating music even if I was deaf. Alas, I hope it never comes to that. I know I could always entertain myself in my head and probably even be able still to express my musical ideas to others. But I sure would miss the transference of artistic expression from the voice of another human being to my own ears. 

So, there ya go, that’s the scoop on another one of my favorites. Thanks for joining me again on a stroll through my wacky process. I went on for a little bit about this one, but I am feeling a little less OCD now. So, that’s cool. 

Side Note: I decided on the title ‘Poptart’ because it insinuates a sweet sounding, catchy tune with a bitter little sting to it (no disrespect intended to the tasty, albeit quite unhealthy breakfast treat!) The more you know... 

Someday it’ll all be okay

 

 

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #9 Is Here! 

August 31, 2017
 

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#9: ‘Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe’ 

Hi there and welcome back to ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’! I’ve really run down to the wire this time, seeing as it’s the end of the month and all. At any rate, the subject of my latest digression is a personal favorite and one I’m really feeling right now. So, let me tell you about ‘Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe’, the title song off our 2010 sophomore release. Here we go… 

Do you stress and strain getting nowhere? 

Sometimes a song pops right out practically ready to go right from the start, other times it needs to stay in the oven for a little while. This one falls in the latter category. I think it endured the longest gestation period of any of my songs to date and is in fact the oldest one I’ve covered in this column thus far dating back to 1996. I fussed with it several times for over a decade, but it started out like so many of my tunes do. An intriguing melody and interesting chord progression kept nagging at me. I couldn’t lock onto a lyric right away and the words kept changing. The only part that remained constant was the phrase 'Tell me when you can’t breathe'. Where does a cool little phrase like that come from? Let’s just say my brain has an unusual capacity for storing varied and peculiar recollections in surprising detail. 

Show me something cool 

It's weird how sometimes random distant memories can pop up and take you right back to a moment. In this instance I recalled a scene from way back in the summer of 1990. My brother, a couple friends and I were playing the stupid kids game Marco Polo in a swimming pool at the apartments where I lived. My friend Jason kept dunking his brother Jeremy and at one point exclaimed, “Tell me when you can’t breathe!” I thought it was freakin’ hilarious and filed it away in the recesses of my noggin. This was before I had even written my first song. On a similar hot summer day while sitting and strumming my guitar in my old studio apartment in 1996 I stumbled upon that memory. I don’t know if it was the heat making me goofy or what, but I still found it pretty funny. I thought to myself, now there’s a song title and I set out exploring. 

Here’s another verse…still not there 

Initially this curious little ditty was comprised of several sections that didn’t survive to make the final cut. It was an experimental, almost progressive musical exercise of sorts featuring adventurous time signature changes and non-repeating parts. I remember thinking it felt kinda like a poppy Rush song. My band at the time, Toybox, was heavily influenced by Rush, as well as bands like Soundgarden, Living Colour, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and The Beatles. We used to tell people our sound could be summed up by three albums: Moving Pictures (Rush, 1981), Abbey Road (The Beatles, 1969) and Bleach (Nirvana, 1989). You could say this composition in progress was pretty accurately representative of that assertion. So it was to be that in progress it would remain, simmering on the back burner for a long time. 

So this is how it goes 

Many years later, during a period shortly after The Hard Way had recorded our first record but prior to its release, I got on this jag of writing a song a day. Naturally, some were better than others. Nevertheless during the spring of 2008 I racked up a decent chunk of tunes, several of which did make it to the finish line finding a home on our second album. Alongside nursing all those new songs I found myself starting to gnaw on ‘Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe’ once again and decided I’d make a concerted effort to zone in on and figure it out once and for all. Ironically after all that time and lots of variations it came together and reached completion surprisingly fast. In fact, I think I knocked it out for good in a single afternoon! 

Ultimately I ended up tossing out pretty much all the tricky time change bits in favor of nailing it as a tight, aggressive, catchy pop tune. Similarly, all the overly cerebral lyrics I’d toyed with got burned away and replaced by a searing, in your face scream of desperation. This was a song teetering on the verge of suffocating itself. I’d found the right fit. 

Though we choose between reality and madness it’s either sadness or euphoria

- Billy Joel (‘Summer, Highland Falls,’ 1976) 

Take another step, don’t come any closer 

In a nutshell, ‘Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe’ is about suffocating under the psychic and emotional strain of being bipolar. I’ve dealt with this my whole life and it is painful (and not just for me, but for those close to me as well). I do, but I don’t. I will, but I won’t. I’m on again. I’m off again. I’ve got the market cornered when it comes to self-sabotage and I don’t like having to interact with others. The oft used term 'rollercoaster' is indeed an apt description. I’ve always felt that the stops and starts and subtle jolts in this song are suitable aural illustrations of my mood fluctuations. Also, I particularly dig the alternating major/minor third interval in relation to the E major chord during the chorus – it sounds to me like a manic high followed by an impending crash. At the end of the song this effect is underscored as it see-saws back and forth over and over. Get it? 

Take it back 

As I was saying, when I finally landed on the lyrics that clicked with the music it all made sense. It was kinda like sculpting. Sometimes songwriting can be that way. You throw a bunch of ideas against the wall to see what sticks. You might get into a space where you think you’re being clever, but then you leave and come back to it multiple times. One day, you get to a point where you wind up chucking a bunch of unnecessary stuff that is only obscuring the purity of the expression screaming to spring forth. It is a process of chipping away until the song reveals itself. 

Stumble toward reward 

At our release party for Only If…And Even Then we played ‘Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe’ as an encore. We’d been rocking it on our first tour that summer along with several other new songs prior to the release of the first album. At the time I had no way of knowing we were debuting what would end up as the title track of our second release. We actually had a good portion of songs that were destined for the second album already in our repertoire by the time the first one came out. Two weeks after the release of Only If… we started recording the follow-up utilizing our home practice space as a studio. 

Incidentally, Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe didn’t become the album title until the last minute. We had debated several silly potential options and one day shortly before sending it out to be mastered it struck me as an appropriate summation of the album’s overall vibe. It hadn’t occurred to me to name the album after the title of one of its songs, but it felt perfect considering it encompassed the claustrophobic, implosive venom of many of the tracks contained within. Funny how the album title came so suddenly that late in the game yet seemed so obvious and natural. I guess it’s akin to the way the song itself lingered unfinished for years only to be completed fairly quickly once I finally zeroed in and figured out how to tie all the loose threads together. Also, it was kinda cool how the first tune that took shape as the recording commenced became the final word. I really like this song. 

Checkmate! 

Well that about does it, wraps her up for this round of reminiscing. As always it’s been a trip cracking open the corners of my memory, regaling you folks with my quirky anecdotes and insights. Thanks again for reading and I’ll catch ya later! 

Fun Fact: The working title of our second album was Toledo Bar Fight. But that’s a whole other story for another day… 

If I seem confused it’s only to amuse you
 

Don’t you know that you can count me out/in

- The Beatles (‘Revolution 1,’ 1968)

 

 

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #8 Is Here! 

July 25, 2017                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#8: ‘The Solution’ 

Hey everyone, time for another one of these things! In the interest of keeping it real behold the latest installment of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ wherein we shall ponder ‘The Solution’, a cornerstone track from 2010’s Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe

It’s always something, I’m not gonna lie 

I am really pissed off right now and trying hard to hold myself together. It’s damn difficult not to look around me everywhere and feel intense animosity toward and utter contempt for the sickness masquerading as humanity polluting my soul and eroding my sanity to the point of critical mass. No joke, I am sincerely struggling to avert a total meltdown right now in my life. I’ve always tried to be honest with you guys when I write these so I’m not about to switch my pitch up now, especially not now. 

Okay, perhaps I should back up for a sec. Before I relate my current personal duress to this piece I’ll provide a little background concerning what spawned this song which feels ever so timely at present. It may seem positive at first glance, but I’m not so sure it really is. 

In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Crack-Up" (1936)

'It'll all work out,' self-confidence pep talk or bullshit delusional mantra? That’s a tough one and I’m the guy who wrote the song. It’s sorta like how I’ve wondered since I was young why I’ve felt so old my whole life, but whatever. Well, at the particular juncture from whence this tune originated I was twenty-five years old. It was late summer, 2001. About a year had transpired since I broke up with a girl I really loved. I was still heartbroken as hell, feeling defeated and perpetually beating myself down further. Songs had been erupting from me at a furious pace during that time and my mind was a mess of twisted thoughts and mixed emotions. I partied aimlessly and dangerously. Too much was never enough to numb the pain I felt. 

It seemed like it was night all the time whether or not the sun was actually up. The days all bled together and though I somehow managed to struggle through day to day responsibilities I’m still surprised how many people didn’t realize how fucked up I really was. Maybe they did, I don’t really know, but to me it seemed it had to be obvious as hell. Anyway, it was daybreak again. I was still awake, nearly catatonic after a long day and night of partying myself stupid with friends. I should explain that everyone else was drinking to have a good time and I guess we did have fun out on Lake St. Clair the previous afternoon prior to the party winding up at my place as it so often did. Long after everyone else had passed out I was once more all alone; me, my guitar and a dead soldier resting between my knees as I struggled to stave off the inevitable hangover already rearing its ugly head. The sun was coming up, but I was going down. 

Look me in the eye and tell me that I’m satisfied…I’m so, I’m so unsatisfied

- The Replacements ('Unsatisfied,' 1984)

Thankfully, as always music was the light fighting to punch its way free of the void. As I had become accustomed to in such moments of delirium, an errant riff and melody floated into my screwed up head from out of the ether. I swear, sometimes I just start strumming and humming without thinking and something pure (however unintelligible) comes out and occasionally, it doesn’t half suck. This little mumble session found me chanting “love, love, love” in a deadpan, sing-songey manner; like a sarcastic piss-take on a Beatles/hippie vibe. I’d look around in the world and it seemed like everyone else was happy all the time and that pissed me off. I felt subhuman, like not a real person who counts like everybody else. I was lost and apathetically spiteful. The other phrase I kept rolling over intermittently was “it’ll all work out.” These words spilled out more like a question than an affirmation (I’ll be alright…right?). And so went another stab out of many bullshit attempts at trying to convince myself to hang in there. 

But, that’s only part of the story… 

Everyone’s crazy 

A couple weeks following my bleary-eyed, early morning, regressive, personal nightmare jam, another kind of nightmare unfurled. If you’ve done the math from the timeline I’ve laid out so far you probably already know what I’m talking about. September 11th was a national nightmare and that’s a gross understatement. The repercussions continue to reverberate as we speak, yet the intensity of the heartbreak we all experienced seems unfathomably somewhere way off in the distant past. In some ways this is a good thing, I suppose. You have to heal to move forward and you have to move forward to heal. There are far too many ways to illustrate how things have gotten much worse since that awful morning, but I’m not even gonna go there right now. Suffice it to say that at the time the event just seemed unreal, like a movie. It felt like the end of the world. 

A few days later, the tragedy still so fresh, it was impossible to make sense of all the madness. I struggled desperately to drown out the noise and chaos around me by reaching inside to try and purge some of my own. I guess out of curiosity or convenience I started fucking with that riff again to see if I could channel any of my frustration into a lyric that might help let off some steam and keep me from boiling over. Within about 45 minutes I had the song completed in pretty much the form it eventually appeared in the released version. It was like a self-help song hopping aboard a bullet train with a one way ticket to hell. 

Who needs an answer? 

I just couldn’t resolve any of the pain in my personal life and now this national crisis only added insult to injury. Why couldn’t we return to how things were on September 10th? Was there any way to go back and change it? No. Why didn’t Alecia call me back that week when she said she would? Could I still possibly change her mind even though a year had passed since she broke up with me, get her to realize it was a mistake? No. Of course, I was the mistake. I was the defective human. She never said that, no one ever said that. My own inner voices sure did though. It got me thinking how it’s like the chicken and the egg thing – did my experiences wreck me or did I precipitate my own pain because I was already inherently damaged from the get go? 

No one ever calls me and if they do it’s probably backward, me calling you 

Now THAT’S some sarcasm! See, friends used to tease me about how when people called I seldom answered. Even if I was sitting right there I’d just let the answering machine get it, thus the “…it’s probably backward…” bit whereby I intended to insinuate that I never call. Admittedly this sounds a little confusing - I meant it as kind of a pun – but I was WAY confused, so… 

I can’t remember why she said she’d call me and anyway it doesn’t matter now any more than it did then, but I was forlorn; I probably just wanted to hear her voice. Even though she’d moved out of town we were still in contact. It sucked. She was still so nice to me, but now that our relationship had ceased to be a romantic one I was literally sick to my stomach (the pit of my stomach being where my broken heart had landed). Eventually I couldn’t talk to her anymore, which in a way made me very sad. She really was a great person, but I was hurting too much; out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. To answer Todd Rundgren’s question, NO you cannot still be friends. 

Don’t let ‘em get you 

At this point you’re reading this going “jeez, this guy’s an obsessive freak, get over it already!” I assure you I did, although it took a long time and quite possibly poisoned my next relationship. Word to the wise: if you have a new love in your life don’t let the ghost of that other girl overshadow the beautiful one right in front of you. She doesn’t deserve that and neither do you. When you can’t let go and the other person has moved on you’re only punishing yourself and it won’t magically put things back the way they were. Sometimes things last, sometimes they don’t. 

It’s like speculating what could have been done to prevent the towers from being hit or who did it or why. No matter what exactly happened I think we can all agree it was crazy and we’ll probably never know the truth. Nothing will change the fact that all those people died tragically. It’s hard to be brave and stand tall when you’re frightened and in total shock. It’s even harder to hold a memory in your heart and, at the same time, learn to let go. 

I’m not really bitter 

So, was I trying to convince everyone else to hang in there, or me, or both? Who cares? Right now I feel as hopeless as ever about myself and the world. This summer has sucked total ass for me. Between my van being broken down, my mail getting stolen, my pain in the neck (literally) and my kitty not feeling so good, not to mention accidentally hitting and killing that baby deer out on Highway 101 and finally, my freakin’ iPod having issues (that was like, the LAST straw), nothing has been going right. (Oh yeah, and then there’s the damn kids staying in the ‘Airbnb’ apartment in my house who have been in the backyard hanging out all hours of the day and night and won’t shut the fuck up!). My universe is basically a never ending tumbling row of dominos. 

It certainly doesn’t help that our government is fucked and every other person I see appears to be either a tweaker zombie or a cell phone zombie. I can hear y’all now going “bitch, bitch, bitch…” It’s just that everything seems horribly disconnected and out of balance. I feel lost and from where I stand, so is everyone else. I apologize for generalizing, but it blows my mind how the world has gotten smaller and somehow we’re drifting further apart than ever. 

There’s never an answer 

Y’know, come to think of it maybe things are not fundamentally that far off from the way they were way back in ’01 (except for the text crazy zombies; fuck that shit!). We’re all just trying to survive another day. Perhaps there’s no point to anything? Oh well, “same as it ever was” (Talking Heads, ‘Once In A Lifetime,’ 1980). 

The solution is: there is no solution. 

So that about wraps it up for this episode of INBOIBT. Yeah, this one wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, but I warned ya! (Hey, if it’s sunshine you want then go outside and get some). Seriously though, thanks for hangin’ with me and reading this. I got a bit long-winded, but it felt really good to get this stuff off my chest. Now go and be excellent to each other and remember: 

It’ll all work out
(Or not) 


I've got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time (It can’t get no worse)

- The Beatles ('Getting Better,' 1967)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #7 Is Here! 

June 21, 2017 

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor 

#7: ‘Out the Door’ 

Hey folks, how y'all doin’? For this latest, electrifying edition of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ I present to you the story behind ‘Out the Door’, the first song on side two of 2014’s Day 5. I’ve got a lot to say this time around, so let’s jump right in! 

Don’t search for all the answers at once. A path is formed by laying one stone at a time.

- ‘The Giant’, appearing to Special Agent Dale Cooper in a vision
      (Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 1, 1990) 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we’ll start there. It is a royal pain in the ass 75% of the time. Okay, to be fair more like 90% of the time. Creatively speaking it has the potential to be a useful asset when you can get it working for you. I say this, because many times when I’ve focused it in the right direction it has helped me to constructively zone in on and provide great attention to detail in my work. Mostly though, it’s frustratingly crippling. I was diagnosed with this crooked crutch of a mental malady when I was 17 and I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of, except it fit me to a T. 

Essentially OCD makes it very hard--nay, damn near impossible--to be in the moment. It’s like trying to think of everything all at once. Thoughts block other thoughts ad infinitum and whether looking back or forward the glass is always half empty. I make lists upon lists upon lists and even when I write it all down (which I ALWAYS do!) I still have a heck of a time running over and over stuff in my head. I count things. It’s usually stupid stuff; objects hanging on the wall, the number of cherry tomatoes I put in my salad, how many guitars I own (even though I know how many I have) and when the last time I restrung or played each of them was. I even make lists of other lists. When it grabs hold of me it can become downright embarrassing and hard to hide, making me paranoid and ultimately angry at myself. Sometimes its regret or it can even be good stuff, but it doesn’t matter. 

It’s a sad, sad situation when you can’t be here and now

Maybe you’ve heard the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Well, I’ve got to admit succumbing to the suffocation of self-doubt and insecurity feels like a monster feeding upon itself. My brain gets stuck in negative thought patterns like a broken record I wanna fucking smash. When it reaches the point where I get angry at others for interrupting my internal ‘looping’ and they become affected/annoyed by it, it’s safe to say I’ve lost control of my shit. Now if that doesn’t qualify as insanity, well then…Let me put it this way, it makes me feel like I wanna die, except I’m too insane to even pull that off! 

So where am I going with this? Here’s the deal. Despite the best of intentions the futility of obsessing over these lists upon lists makes it a miracle for me to actually accomplish my desired goals/tasks. So many times I’ve thought I had everything figured out but I couldn’t get started even though I could picture it all clearly in my head. Long story short, I’m lucky if I ever get ‘out the door’

When we began work on songs for our third record I dug this one out and introduced it to the band. The music I’d had in my pocket for about a decade at that point but I’d never fully fleshed it out into a song. It had a catchy melody and my lyrical mumblings always seemed to favor the phrase ‘out the door’ but that was as far as it got. 

At the time I originally wrote the music I was in the middle of a manic spell (yeah, for those not already aware I’m also bipolar). It was January, 2000 and I spent the better part of 48 hours seated at my old piano. I composed a ‘suite’ that must have been comprised of, oh, about half a dozen ‘movements’, several of which were later broken up into separate finished songs of their own. A few of those have surfaced on HW albums over the years. This one was the second to last piece of that saga if I remember correctly. It had a nice little bounce to it, very McCartney ala ‘Martha My Dear’ (The Beatles, 1968) or something like that. Anyway, I filed it like so many others on the shelf in the back of my mind. When I did pull it up I was joking around, but the band liked it. This wasn’t the first time a ‘back burner’ idea resurfaced and I decided it was actually better than I’d given it credit for. 

Around this time I had started implementing piano into our sound more and this song began to take shape. One of the first things I recall when we first jammed it out involved a silly ‘soap opera-style’ organ intro. Dave spontaneously busted into this goofy improvised preacher sermon bit. The specific content varied each time, but it always concluded with the phrase “…and he was cloaked in baby blue…” Call it convenience, serendipity or whatever, this wound up the first lyric in the song. I was off and running from there! 

Baby blue don’t let them see you

The gist of the lyric springs from my paranoia in regards to my OCD being uncomfortably outwardly apparent. I briefly digress into what they termed in the mental hospital as ‘going global’. This entails blaming your problems on the world en masse when you can’t deal with them. Thing is, it actually makes it harder to see where you’re at or to know where to start i.e. “putting one foot in front of the other”. “Is it my imagination or has the whole world just gone mad?” is a legit question, albeit irrelevant to one’s own personal crisis immediately at hand. “Does anybody really care at all?” Why should they? This gets turned on its head at the end of the song when I resolve that “I’ll be alright, I always was before” as I rhetorically muse about the whole world getting it together if we can ever collectively change (get ‘out the door’). Mostly though, I’m singing to myself to not take things so seriously. It’s okay to be a little crazy.

During the mixing stage of Day 5 I had a flash of insight. At the time the band had undergone personnel changes. I had already fashioned/sequenced a 10 song album out of a bunch of songs recorded by our original line-up. The album was to have been called This Time You Know and I’d selected what I thought were the 10 strongest songs from those sessions. Once Luke and Skyler joined the band we recorded 5 new songs for an EP. It dawned on me to take those new songs, all of which I really liked, and put them together with the 5 best of the best from the other songs intended for the album. I decided to put the tracks featuring the new incarnation of the band on side one and side two would be a ‘suite’ of sorts containing the keepers from the originally planned album. 

There were a few songs we’d recorded that for one reason or another I just wasn’t feeling all the way anymore. Maybe I’d changed my mind about a lyrical sentiment here or there, but I still liked elements of the song. So, I took various bits (background harmonies, etc.) and edited them together connecting all the songs on the second side. Basically, I ‘strip-mined’ a song called ‘Tried and True’ (incidentally, another one from that same manic piano session way back when I wrote ‘Out the Door’). These fragments served as segues between songs. In retrospect I’m glad the original album didn’t get finished earlier as this wouldn’t have occurred to me at the time. I think ultimately it really benefited as a result. 

So, that’s basically it. Oh yeah, one more thing! That preacher bit I mentioned that Dave did somehow never got recorded. I envisioned ‘Out the Door’ opening side two and introduced the “Tried and True” fragment concept straight away as a fade in/intro that merged into the cheesy organ intro. But what to put over the top of the cheese where the spoken part had initially been? I remembered the first day we recorded the basic rhythm tracks for the album. Dave played drums while I played a rhythm guitar guide track. We were getting some ‘cross-talk’ from half of a CB radio conversation happening somewhere coming through my amp. It was totally random but I surmised it might slide neatly into place if I floated it in over the organ business. I still don’t quite know exactly why it works, it just felt right. Chalk it up to a happy accident manipulated to serve the song. Spontaneity is a good thing for a guy like me. It helps to not get so hung up on the mystery of it all. It can even be fun! 

Whew! Okay, I swear I’m finally finished with this diatribe (can you tell I was manic when I wrote it?). Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to make a list of what I have and haven’t got done today and may or may not get done tomorrow, at which point I’ll probably repeat the process. Still, I like to think that each time I’m getting a little closer (to what, I have no idea). 

And I’m sure this time eventually we’ll find it and we’ll all get wise if we ever get out the door...

                                                                                                                                                           
      And we’re finally here and shit yeah its cool and shouldn’t it be – or something like that 

- Robert Pollard
(Guided by Voices, 'Echos Myron,' 1994)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                            

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I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through Issue #6 Is Here! 

May 18, 2017

        I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor

#6: 'Look Away'

  Wow. I just realized its half way through the month and I haven’t done one of these things yet, shame on me! I need to post something soon, thus my sophisticated process for deciding this month’s feature. I’m sitting here thinking to myself, “Well, let’s see it’s May. Hmm…what rhymes with May? Ooh, I know – 'Look Away'! Yeah, that works. So, for the May edition of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ I’m gonna roll with this one. I think it’s one of the best songs off our first album, Only If…And Even Then (2008). Here’s how it went down.

Since I began this little whatever you wanna call it where I talk about my songs, we have explored several ways in which I’ve experienced the songwriting process. I’ve told you about episodes when inspiration struck seemingly out of thin air, occasionally resulting in a nearly complete song unfurling itself in my head. Then there are the instances whereby a song develops/evolves on its own time until I fit all the pieces together just how I like. Another fun thing to reminisce about was collaboration via the mystery of throwing together random ideas, fragments and phrases to construct a song. This time around I’d like to reflect on a song that for the most part flowed out in one sitting whilst holed up inside my house during a snow spell in January 2004.

After a time the sun is gonna shine

We don’t get white winters too often in Olympia (at least not for prolonged periods) but this particular snow blast lasted a couple days and lucky me I got few songs out of the deal! I can still picture the snowflakes falling silently outside my living room window. Incense was burning as I sat there in the middle of the afternoon, my only light the lustrous blanket enveloping the landscape. While strumming my acoustic guitar, humming little spontaneous meandering melodies that popped into my head, this mellow ditty floated out of the ether. The mystery melody revealed itself to be a plaintive, relatively simple little song. This was basically me singing to myself all by myself. I felt pretty lonely and was as usual sullenly seeking solace in the only thing that’s ever made sense to me: music.

Now let’s jump forward. Around the end of 2006 just prior to the formation of The Hard Way, Tim and I had been doing a lot jamming together. We set about coming up with a list of songs to start out with and a good chunk of them were selected from already existing material of mine. Both of us really liked ‘Look Away’, but I wasn’t sure it was complete. I didn’t know exactly what I thought I was looking for at that point, just that it felt kinda brief and like it needed an extra dash of, well…something.

Also at this time I had recently enrolled at The Evergreen State College and was adjusting to academic life again after about a decade’s absence. The first program I participated in covered a ton of music history. A particularly invaluable exercise was when we were handed assignments to compose various kinds of musical forms, such as rounds, canons, fugues, etc. in conjunction with our focus on music theory. My favorite instance involved a little piece that I composed, a prelude inspired directly from Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Prelude No. 1 in C Major’ (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, 1722).

In Bach’s day the German word Clavier was a broad term for keyboards, generally harpsichord or clavichord and sometimes organ. A prelude is a short musical motif often precluding a larger work. My modest attempt was essentially one big continuous arpeggio not unlike ‘Prelude No. 1 in C Major’. I chose A Major so it wouldn’t be too close to Bach’s piece. Boy, playing for my class sure helped me dust off the rust on my playing skills, I tell ya what! The reason being that in order to execute this groovy thing I made up in my head I needed both hands to cooperate through, what was for me at the time, a slightly tricky series of maneuvers.

Somehow I managed to rehearse myself up enough to get through playing it for my class. I explained where I got the idea from and how I was inspired to experiment and try out my own variation. For those of you out there still scratching your noggins going “What the heck is he talking about with all this musical jargon"?! here’s the salient point I’m getting at. I was fascinated at how Bach ostensibly created his preludes to be exercises for demonstrating the advantages of what is known as ‘equal temperament’ tuning. This was a recent advent at the time which made it possible to play in every key while avoiding intervals that were out of tune. Bach showed how it worked in all 24 major and minor keys. He envisioned it in his words, "For the use and practice of musical youth eager to learn and for the amusement of those already skilled in this study” (WTC I, 1722). But what really got me was how something initially intended as a more or less clinical demonstration could wind up as beautifully haunting as ‘Prelude in C Major’.

Uncover your eyes

Sure all the technical stuff about it is neat, but mathematical details aside the piece has always inexplicably moved me in the most melancholy way. Why? To this day I marvel at and contemplate what exactly it is about music that provokes such strong emotion in people. The manner in which various combinations of notes and chords and frequencies and vibrations color our lives is mind-blowing. What is lurking within the music that elicits joy, sadness, anger, confusion? Furthermore, music is a subjective experience; I consider it fifty percent the artist/performer and fifty percent the listener. Why does Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys, 1966) feel so glorious to me, but may be little more than elevator music to someone else? The answer is I have no answer. Perhaps we’re somehow metabolically or environmentally predisposed, I don’t know. I guess the mystery is part of the magic. Stevie Wonder once stated most eloquently, “You can feel it all over” (‘Sir Duke,’ 1976). Maybe that’s all that matters?

Cut to the next scene. It’s early 2007 and The Hard Way are a baby band just learning to crawl. One of the first songs we took a crack at was ‘Look Away’ and I was still looking for that elusive something to really make it click for me. Not long after the classroom performance I wondered what my prelude might sound like with a harmony. One evening before band rehearsal I was messing with it some more on the piano and I unexpectedly connected the dots in my dilemma. Through sheer serendipity I had a sudden flash that my left hand could be one guitar part and my right hand the other. This is when that thing you’ve heard me refer to before as ‘guitarmonies’ all started. Elizabeth I think coined that term! Bonus: my prelude was in the key of A major, the same as ‘Look Away’ so it wouldn’t be hard to try tagging it on at the end and see how it sounded. Just like that my prelude moved to the back of the song when I decided this could be an epic guitarmony coda, propelling the song to an explosive finish. Similar to the endings of ‘Layla’ (Derek & the Dominos, 1970) and ‘Hey Jude’ (The Beatles, 1968) it adds more strength and length, comprising a good chunk of the song. But then, the end section of ‘Layla’ has always been my favorite part!

This is where it gets tricky. In order to execute this properly we had to learn how to play it on guitar, not to mention figure out what was to be the harmony/2nd guitar part. So, what we did was real quick like I nailed down precisely the way I wanted the higher part (right hand) to go on the piano. I then gave Tim the notation I had written for both my original melody line and the new harmony. He took it home, deciphered the parts individually on guitar then taught my own part back to me. He took the right hand part and I handled the left one. It took forever for me to play it smoothly; I’m still psyched whenever we play it live and I don’t mess up! Tim of course played it flawlessly. I feel very fortunate to have had the pleasure of playing with two top flight guitarists in this band. Tim and Skyler, you guys both kick serious ass.

Recently Tim joined us for an encore at a show and we played ‘Look Away’, this time with a triple guitar assault! Yeah, it rocked. At one point I glanced over at Tim and he smiled back. I thought about the outings he, Liz and I used to take, just hanging out and having fun. My favorite time was one sunny Sunday afternoon in spring time when we just started driving and wound up at Mt. St. Helens. We listened to Tonight’s the Night (Neil Young, 1975) and All Things Must Pass (George Harrison, 1970) in my old minivan and talked about rock n’ roll. As we three gazed out over the landscape at the infamous mountain I was astounded at the resilience of nature. What a great day that was.

As I write this I’m pondering my own resilience. Funny how this all stemmed from reminiscing about a little tune that found me one snowy day long ago. ‘Look Away’ is a gift to me from me; a message from the past to the present. It’s a light in the darkness reassuring me that I’ve come this far and I can keep going.

When you’re hurting real bad it only seems like it will never end. What you do with that hurt is up to you.

Just don’t forget to breathe and you’ll be okay

 

Listen and compare the coda at the end of 'Look Away' with 'Prelude No. 1 in C Major' and see what you think:                                                                                                                                                                                        

                 

 

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'I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through' Issue #5 Is Here! 

April 1, 2017
I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor

#5: ‘Misspoken’
 
This is a first. I’m actually posting ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ on the first of the month! This works out quite nicely, seeing as the tale I’m about to tell concerns a song that burst into the world on an April Fools’ Day, once upon a time. Oh yeah, it also happens to be the very first song from our first album, 2008’s Only If…And Even Then. The song is ‘Misspoken’ and here’s the scoop.

What do you have to say?

Paul McCartney has stated that when he and John Lennon first started writing together, “We would write a song and just have to remember it. And there was always the risk that we’d just forget it. If the next morning you couldn’t remember it – it was gone. In actual fact you had to write songs that were memorable, because you had to remember them or they were lost! There must have been dozens lost this way” (Patches, Matt. "Paul McCartney Reveals There Are 'Dozens' of Lost Beatles Songs." Esquire, July 31, 2015. http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/news/a36809/lost-beatles-songs-paul-mccartney/). Songwriters have all experienced that moment. In fact, it’s the moment we as artists honestly desire more than any other. When blind inspiration hits you out of nowhere and you see/hear a fully realized work in your head your number one priority is to surrender your attention to it as soon as possible. I call it ‘catch the lightning’. Alas, much like actual lightning this inevitably presents its own uniquely frustrating set of challenges. It’s funny now, but in the moment I was kinda freakin’ out!

It was a gorgeous, crisp, blue afternoon in early spring. As I recall the sun was shining bright April Fools’ Day 1998 in Olympia. I had just finished lunch and had to make a stop at the bank. I was standing in line like, y’ know whatever, and BAM! A whole song, no kidding, slams into my head all at once. I lived downtown and walked around humming music in my head all the time. I’ve mentioned before how the acoustics of my physical environment often tend to forge an odd synchrony with my musical brain. Usually, it’s a specific rhythm or combination of rhythms or a riff that sprouts up spontaneously as I absorb the sounds in the world around me. Random phrases and lyrical fragments pop in and out as well. Best of all, I love when the hooks hit. Hooks are what make songs catchy.

Bits and pieces here and there are one thing; this was something entirely new to me. I couldn’t tell you what the catalyst was. My OCD was getting the better of me that day and my thoughts were all over the place. Standing in line at my bank was taking forever when, like a lyrical roller coaster, these silly words tumbled out of the ether wrapped around a melody. It was sort of a cute pun personifying putting one’s foot in one’s mouth, aside from that I couldn’t immediately discern any apparent “meaning”. I just liked how it sounded. Words and music felt like one and the same. It was so natural, like it had always been there; all I needed to do was snatch it up. Keep in mind I was already standing in the line from hell, now I was becoming super anxious. My stupid OCD took a well-deserved backseat as this breaking development desperately clamored its way into my head. I had to get out of there and go write my song!

Running rampant circles ‘round my brain

I feel like this is a good time to point out that I am pounding a self-imposed deadline, so to speak. Yes, at this very moment, it is actually April 1st! See, I haven’t had a chance to resume writing for a day or so and I’m hell bound to get this thing posted pronto! I’m trying to generate a vibe here, man!! This April Fools’ Day sure has been a hoot and, yeah, I’m being sarcastic. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad. Well, not necessarily, categorically ‘bad’ per se at all, just a goofy day and people are everywhere like the crazy ants in my apartment and it’s just now that I FINALLY get a damn minute to get back to my writing! Sorry, I’m venting. I digress. Forgive my unfocused words. Folks, you have before your eyes the most real time edition of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ ever. I’m laughing now because, ironically, today feels a lot like the day I was talking about when this song sprang into existence!

Yay for mania!

Okay enough, back to the song…

Where was I? Oh yeah! Okay, so standing in line was driving me up the wall. Not helping matters was the crappy 90’s "alternative" adult contemporary shit my bank had playing in the lobby. Ugh! I’m talking zero musical nutritional value, ick!! Anyway, I had to drown it out and keep humming through this tune in my mind so I wouldn’t lose it. This was kind of a good thing actually, as it kept me from tripping on my immediate frustration too much. I worked through the verses and chorus and figured out the sneaky little bridge that’s barely there, but it’s still a bridge! I decided the drums and guitars should kind of enter and exit at specific times, building and taking away. I remember mentally experimenting with several dynamic parameters; loud/quiet, key changes, stops and starts, riff textures/chord voicings and especially placing the bass notes off root throughout the chorus.

I would like to highlight that last factor cited as a significant epiphany arrangement-wise. Playing a bass note off root can work wonders to color a chord progression. This simply means the bass plays some other note in the scale being played. It’s like if the guitar chord I’m playing is say, ‘D’, play the bass note in ‘A’. If it’s ‘Bb’, play ‘F’ or for a ‘G’ chord, make the bass play ‘B’. (Those are all actual bass note/chord combos in ‘Misspoken’, btw.) Both McCartney and Brian Wilson have used this device to magnificent effect many times; up to this point it hadn’t quite clicked with me. But I was ready for it anytime, I studied those guys hard! Low and behold when I least expected it, I got it.

Yeah, you could say I had a couple ideas standing there in that line. It was like a meteor shower of music melting my brain. But, it was exciting and I really liked it and I just remembered what Paul always said about him and John. I figured if I could hang onto it, it probably didn’t suck. Like I said sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t, you never know. It was looking good so far though. My baby song blissfully drowned out the dreadful Goo Goo Matchbox diarrhea still being vomited from the bank lobby speakers.

You heave a sigh

At last I made it the two blocks back to my place. Now that I think about it, there were ants there too. Ants suck. Somehow I managed to maintain the whole darn thing! I grabbed the brand new guitar I had just purchased. I was still psyched about that, as it was the first genuine left-handed acoustic guitar I had ever owned. It was a cheap, foreign made Martin, but it was a bona fide lefty, proper. Getting it to accurately intonate took a little finessing still (it wasn’t ‘top of the line’ by any means), but I got ‘er working alright. This song was my test drive. When I checked myself for accuracy after completely composing it in my head; I gotta say I was right pleased with the results! Over time the fundamental arrangement never altered dramatically. This accidental song faithfully encapsulates and expresses its own spontaneity.

Shortly thereafter I got my little Tascam Porta Studio and this was one of the first songs I recorded on it in the basement at my old place. I miss that basement. I got to play with all the ideas I’d had in the bank line that day and hear how it sounded all together. I love the brevity of ‘Misspoken’. The song structure is so tight; it only does what it needs to do. The economy is equal to the urgency. For quite some time after I wrote this song I was pretty proud of it. I still am. It’s simple, but it’s not. Like I said it represented a big leap forward for me as a songwriter.

I need to write a whole record full of songs no longer than two minutes. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time (someday!!) At least this one made it onto a record and not just any old place on any old record. I’m glad it’s the first song on our first album. We don’t hit the oldies too often these days, but the fact that we still play this one live I think says a lot. That said it’s time for me to split! The Hard Way have a gig in a couple hours (I need to warm up!) I hope you’ve enjoyed this real time, April Fools’ Day edition of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ as much as me. Busting this out has been almost as rewarding as writing the actual song.

Almost.

(There was one time I stood in line so long at the bank I pissed myself. But that’s a different story for another day.)

This time you’ve gone too far...
 
 

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'I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through' Issue #4 Is Here! 

March 11, 2017

I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor

#4: ‘Stethoscope’
 
Greetings everyone! I hope you’re all stayin’ alive out there and super psyched for this latest action packed episode of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’, because we’ve got a fun one for you today! This time around we’re gonna reminisce about a weird little rocker from 2014’s Day 5. Here’s the story of that album’s third cut, ‘Stethoscope’.

The next thing you know it’s already now

That’s pretty much how I felt the better part of the entire day of August 5th, 2008. It was damn near 100 degrees, blindingly hot from dawn’s first light. I woke up still suffering from the terrible headache I had the night before due to sinus pressure courtesy of the crappy summer bug wreaking havoc on me. I accidentally took the ‘blue’ pill. Okay, it’s not quite as freaky as you’re thinking; I just messed up and took what I subsequently realized was Tylenol PM. This was an unfortunate mistake on my part as I started getting sleepy right as my day was getting going. Yay!

Skyler and I were headed to record a demo of a new song he and I had written. Our destination was the home studio of our friend, Smoke (M2D6 of Oldominion) and I have hilarious drowsy recollections of stopping at 7 Eleven prior to the session and slamming back a ton of black coffee. It was all I could do to try to equalize myself the entire day. Oh God, what a weird day! Somehow we managed to track the whole darn thing. Sky played all the main electric and acoustic guitars and I played bass and drums. We both sang and rocked a duo guitar/harmony solo. Over the next week or so, Smoke had fun experimenting with overlaying some beats, reversing tracks and trying out other trippy production effects. I recently listened to the mixes from this version of ‘Stethoscope’ (dated 8/5/08 & 8/12/08) and they’re really fun to dig on! That whole day had a mirage-like feel to it. Our recording aptly reflected the vibe.
 
The sweltering August heat of that recording session stands in serious contrast to the torrential downpour I seem to recall transpiring the day we first jammed out what would become ‘Stethoscope’. It was spring 2008, Skyler and I had recently started getting together once a week and learning songs by Paul McCartney & Wings with the intent of playing the annual Night of the Living Tribute Bands at the Capitol Theater in Olympia on Halloween (which we did and you can still find it on YouTube! *see link below.) We were just cutting loose one afternoon and Skyler started pounding this total tomahawk stomp on the drums while I banged out a dark, fuzzy, Neil Young & Crazy Horse wannabe chord progression on the guitar. We woodshedded on that one for a bit then recorded it and some other song fragments in progress on my old Tascam Porta One 4 track cassette recorder. The music took shape swiftly and with ease.

Seeing the light, counting the cards; you can’t unless you hit it hard

Lyrically, this song tumbled together somewhat unorthodoxly. Skyler remembers, “I had recently seen a clip of Bowie cutting up his lyrics and putting them into a bowl, then picking them out at random as he wrote a song. I really liked that idea and wanted to give it a go, so I brought my stack of notebooks with random lyrics, knowing you had similar stacks and off we went.” It is indeed a strange phenomenon witnessing a song’s meaning unfolding unto itself. I can’t really think of any other way to describe it. Previously, I’ve touched on the role of random chance when it comes to seeing connections between phrases on the same page written at different times. ‘Stethoscope’ is an entire song comprised of such connections with not even one pre-determined lyric going into it. Skyler asserts that, “Taking turns putting random lyrics together had a remarkable effect and the song ended up mysterious, with a lot of underlying themes, yet totally cohesive. It was fun looking through my lyric notes for something in response to yours and vice versa. It was a very freeing exercise and we ended up with a great song!”

Every bizarre phrase strung together in this song experiment fits together snugly and seamlessly and I’ll be damned if I still have no clue what it’s about? As always, I have mental snapshots of moments in time attached to certain phrases. “Time machine radio” for instance, makes reference to my listening to old 1960’s & 70’s country on an AM station of my transistor radio at sunset while camping in the eastern Washington foothills of the Cascades during early summer. Similarly, “holographic stereo” is a nod to the so-called ‘Holographic Universe Theory', which was the topic of discussion on the radio program Coast to Coast AM that I was listening to one night during that same camping trip.
 
One of my favorite zingers to find its way into this song originated from a quip made by a severely adult A.D.D. co-worker friend of Elizabeth’s at the time named Barb. Barb was a manically entertaining, verbally caustic grenade of a woman; an odd bird, to put it mildly. Once I overheard her spat out something to the effect of “I'll stab you with a clue!” This remark was so ridiculous I knew it would wind up somewhere in a song. “Circle the drain, does the fun ever start?” is a cute one, too. Seriously, it was akin to a kind of lyrical hopscotch the way a line like that spilled straight into a perfect foil like “everything’s happening, so tear it apart”. Once again, any “meaning” per se in this song is purely coincidental or subjective. However, might I suggest that perhaps it concerns questioning reality?
 
Cold as a stethoscope, make up a sound

Melodically speaking, Skyler and I approached this song intending it to have a dual lead vocal, the kind of thing Lennon and McCartney had pulled off in so many catchy early Beatles songs. Classics like ‘From Me To You,’ ‘She Loves You,’ ‘If I Fell,’ ‘I’ll Be Back’ and ‘Baby’s In Black’ all have tightly wound two part vocal harmonies where either part could be construed as the “lead” vocal. We applied that mindset and our melody was very strong so it just flowed very organically. Sometime later our intermittent side project, the fabled outfit collectively known as Scott Taylor & the Fond Farewells, integrated this song into our set and we continued to explore and massage it.

I should note that at the time both Skyler and Luke were members of the Fond Farewells, but not yet members of The Hard Way. In my mind and heart they had always been extended band family at the very least and quite likely would have been in the band sooner if not for other primary musical obligations of the moment. Looking back, the whole Fond Farewells era was a doorway leading toward exploring more nuanced arrangements. It certainly provided me confidence to begin pushing my music into increasingly eclectic directions.

When Skyler and Luke had joined The Hard Way, at some point it was suggested we dig this one out and give it a go. We strived to combine the strongest elements of the previous attempts at the song. I was keen on reinstating the thumping tomahawk beat from the original version and really rocking the daylights out of this thing. We incorporated the dark, smoky Fender Rhodes piano into the proceedings (a remnant of the Fond Farewells’ version) and Skyler and I managed to play our searing, melodic guitar harmonies (or “guitarmonies” as we like to call ‘em) simultaneously during the recording resulting in a dynamic ebb and flow underscoring the smoldering tension in the music. I love the Vibraslap that initiates the instrumental section. I always wanted to use one somewhere and right there it hit the spot!

Never again isn’t tomorrow...

I thought the official album version turned out terrific! The wall of vocals was made extra creamy thanks in part to Skyler’s eagerness to try having each of the band members sing every note in the background vocal harmony line, a method implored to tremendous effect by no less than the likes of a little band called Queen (Yep!) I think we pulled off a super dense, dreamy vocal blend that would have given 10CC a run for their money!
 
Wow, every time I take a trip back in my mind in regards to one of these songs it winds up being a deluge of memories, more than I can reasonably fit into one of these little monthly columns! I’ve enjoyed sharing my ‘Stethoscope’ stories with y’all and I’d like to thank the song’s co-author, Skyler Blake for his invaluable recollections as well.
 
Fun fact: when we did the session for ‘Stethoscope’ out at South Sound Sound in Shelton, Skyler and I managed to cram his Subaru wagon full tilt with my Marshall stack, his Fender Deluxe and Princeton amps, the Fender Rhodes piano and its speaker cabinet and our guitars AND, somehow…ourselves.

Oh yeah, we rocked that shit.
 



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SONG LYRICS

* NOLTB, Halloween 2008 (McCartney & Wings tribute feat. Scott, Sky, Dave, Liz & the late, great Steve Munger!):

'I'm Not Blacking Out, I'm Breaking Through' Issue #3 Is Here! 

Feb 14, 2017
I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor

#3: ‘Strait Jacket for Two’

Hey folks! Seeing as this truly is the winter of our discontent I figured, let’s put the spot on a song that doesn’t much help in making things better! Also, it’s Valentine’s Day. I don’t have a Valentine, but in the spirit of all the what have you, I’ll share some reflections on a dysfunctional love song I wrote a ways back. This installment of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ takes a gander at my sardonic ditty ‘Strait Jacket for Two’. This emotionally unstable little gem of a would-be waltz can be found nestled deep in the heart of The Hard Way’s sophomore release Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe (2010).

All that is not I have and have not forgot

In my teens I developed a habit of carrying around a notepad in my back pocket. I scrawled all over the place on anything I could find, bumblingly attempting to capture the blazing thoughts rapidly firing from my head. Sometimes the thoughts were interesting.

People say the darndest things and so often don’t realize it. My little brother alone has provided me many invaluable quips that have worked their way into various lyrics and song titles of mine over the years. The original title of this song, ‘Jack Daniels and a Shotgun’, is one such example. One day he blurted out the phrase in response to my query as to what our Dad’s 50th birthday plans were. I won’t go into detail on that, suffice it to say it was funny. You had to be there; twisted humor between brothers. Anyhoo, it went into my notebook.

Other fragments scattered nearby on this same page and the one across from it included “I called the spirits but they cancelled” (a bizarre utterance proclaimed by the six year old daughter of a friend of mine’s girlfriend at the time; a phrase which frankly I still do not understand) and “strait jacket for two”. Sometimes I’ve opened up to a page and found totally unintentionally complimentary bits or phrases opposite a page from one another. You can’t plan that kind of random stuff. There it is staring you in the face and it just clicks, makes perfect sense. I like when a song tells me how it’s supposed to go. When a song points the way, it’s not a bad idea to listen.

Are you going to go down with me?

This one sprang from a gigantic explosion of creativity and existential exploration for me. I had recently acquired a cassette 4 track recorder and had holed myself up in my basement experimenting. Winter 1998-99 was a fertile time when I was also really pushing myself lyrically more toward free form prose, stream of consciousness writing. I began dream journaling and writing for a half hour every day first thing when I awoke. My heart and mind started processing a lot of weird stuff. Just shy of my 23rd birthday, I was feeling old. Adulthood was nigh, but I wasn’t sure about the whole growing up thing. To say I was conflicted would be an understatement. When it came to music, I wanted the whole world to hear what I was doing, yet didn’t give a damn. I was also very much in love with one of the great loves of my life, yet not sure I was truly capable of or worth loving.

Songs are snapshots to me. Memories have the power to comfort, haunt or seduce us whether we want them to or not. Sometimes I feel lost outside of space and time, as if my life is lived in a nonlinear way. I’m not sure how to accurately describe it, let’s just say I honestly question reality. This concept of ‘snapshot songwriting’ weaves the flickers of distant memories into focus via the blinding light of present confusion. ‘Strait Jacket for Two’ is a snapshot of me unable to believe somebody could love me as much as I loved Alecia, but she did. This freaked me out. It’s hard wanting someone, but not wanting to hurt them with your sadness.

Kindergarten daffodils continue to grow

True love when you’re young is bittersweet business. You think the good times will always stay that way. I had a tough time feeling like I deserved happiness which led to a prophetic, self-fulfilling cycle of detachment and loss. I wanted to love and to share but I didn’t quite fully know how. Who does when they’re 22, right?

My depression was a pretty heavy weight though. The side of me who used to “tinfoil all the windows” as a teenager to block out the sunlight (I said it was due to migraines which sometimes was the case, but mostly it was just because I was super depressed) was at odds with another part of me desperately aching to reach out, to grow, connect.

Elsewhere on the same page containing the “tinfoil…” line was a remark in regards to some daffodil bulbs my grandmother had bought from me for a school fundraiser in kindergarten. At the time this song was composed I was amazed to find that those flowers were perennially blooming nearly 20 years on! How did those flowers know how to do that and keep coming back? This tinfoil/daffodil juxtaposition appealed to me and became a sort of anchor for the blossoming song. You can close yourself off from the world, but life goes on.

If you were me and I was you would I do like you want me to?

For all my musings I was having a heck of a time matching words with music for this song. I loved the melody and sought a wry/sincere lyric. It was the “strait jacket for two” line that really kicked things into gear. To me it seemed humorous that love is kind of unavoidably co-dependent. This image was too irresistible to pass up. It was a way to make a joke, yet be sincere by saying, “Hey, I love you. I hope I don’t wind up driving you away, because I’m too crazy!” (Side note: I secretly fantasized about offering the song to Elliott Smith, whom I was immensely inspired by and obsessed with and who I figured could do the song WAY better than me!)

Make it stop so I can start

So it came to pass I managed to finally bang this song out…the night I first performed it before an audience! I had another new song ready I was going to try out in my set that night, but it was this one I really wanted to do. I put my mind to it that afternoon and the random notebook passages and music gelled, finally. When the right words find the right music, it’s a beautiful thing. I distinctly recall feeling this was an outstanding leap forward for me as a songwriter. It was maybe the 2nd or 3rd time I’d experienced that. Thankfully, it was not the last.

Shortly after writing “Strait Jacket for Two” (which incidentally I changed from “Jack Daniels and a Shotgun” because I thought it was a less violent title with a wink of levity and because I had the silly notion that should this song ever become popular I wouldn’t want a certain sour mash distillery in Lynchburg, TN suing my ass!) I took a stab at recording it. This was my first time playing all instruments myself on a multi-track recording outside of my basement (guitars, bass, drums, vocals) and I knocked it all out in an afternoon at the Evergreen State College. I was the guinea pig for a student in the recording program, which several years later I myself would be enrolled in. (Later on that evening after tracking at Evergreen, my friend and I randomly met Elliott Smith at the Spar café in Olympia! He was in town to play the ‘Yo-Yo a Go-Go’ festival which was sold out and we couldn’t get into, which totally sucked. But, we got to buy him a beer and he liked my Cheap Trick t-shirt. It was one of several fortunate instances whereupon I got to meet one of my musical heroes. R.I.P. Elliott)

When it came time to make The Hard Way’s second album, I definitely wanted this song to be there for the ages. Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe was my first official credit as producer and we had a lot of fun making that album at home. By this time I was enrolled in the audio recording program at Evergreen and the progress toward crafting that record embodied a personal learning curve. We were just starting to really dig into our potential and, to me anyway, this song hinted at the possibility of great musical things to come.

Also, Elizabeth really liked this song, I think she understood it. I'm sorry. I should have been a better partner in our relationship. I love you and wish you happiness always.

This one goes out to all the lovers out there and to the lonely hearts, too. You deserve love.

Tin foil is for warming up old pizza (or for fashioning a special hat so no one can read your thoughts).
 
 

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Previous events

The Hard Way w/ Petey Normal, Nothing Sounds Good & Enormodome

Obsidian, 414 4th Ave E, Olympia

Sunday night ROCK!! Catch the swingin' sounds of Tacoma bands Petey Normal and Nothing Sounds Good along with Enormodome from Flagstaff, AZ and of course, The Hard Way!!! $8, 21 & up

Hurts Like Hell "Don't Cry Wolf" CD Release Party w/The Hard Way

F.O.E Eagles Club, 805 4th Ave E, Olympia

Join us for Hurts Like Hell's "Don't Cry Wolf" CD Release Party with The Hard Way on Friday, August 4th at Eagles Olympia. 8pm. $5 cover OR $10 CD and cover! 21 & up. Members and guests only. Not a member? Make a friend, talk to the band, we'll get ya in!

The Hard Way @ The 20th Anniversary International Pop Overthrow Festival Los Angeles

Skinny's Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood

The International Pop Overthrow Festival was created and is held annually around the world by the one and only David Bash, the champion of independent pop artists. Scott & Skyler have the awesome opportunity to represent The Hard Way at the 20th Anniversary IPO Festival in Los Angeles! $10, 21 & up

OFS Presents 'Deconstructing The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper and The White Album'

Olympia Film Society/Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave, Olympia

DECONSTRUCTING SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND SCREENING: TUE 7/25 4:00PM & 9:00PM; WED 7/26 6:30PM

Scott and Skyler will perform acoustic classic songs from The Beatles 1/2 hour before each screening!

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most influential albums of our time. Rolling Stone described it as ͞the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. In Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, composer, musician, and Beatles expert Scott Freiman looks at Sgt. Pepper from multiple angles, exploring the history behind the music. Mr. Freiman conducts an educational journey into the creative process of The Beatles performances and recording sessions. You are guaranteed to leave amazed at The Beatles’ innovation in the studio and have a newfound appreciation for the talents of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr. Dir: Scott Freiman / 2017 / US / 95 min / Film

DECONSTRUCTING THE WHITE ALBUM SCREENING: TUE 7/25 6:30PM; WED 7/26 4:00PM & 9:00PM

Released in 1968, the White Album’s thirty songs span almost every style of music from hard rock to country to chamber music to avant garde. Its recording took place during a remarkable year in Beatles history that included the death of Brian Epstein, the creation of Apple Corps, and a trip to India to study meditation. In this multimedia presentation film, Mr. Freiman transports his audience into Abbey Road Studio for a look at the revolutionary techniques used during the production of “Revolution,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird” and other songs from the White Album. It’s an educational journey into the creative process of The Beatles performances and recording sessions, allowing the audience to see and hear the evolution of these groundbreaking songs and understand their lasting influence on popular music. Dir: Scott Freiman / 2017 / US / 90 min / Film

OFS Presents 'Deconstructing The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper and The White Album'

Olympia Film Society/Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave, Olympia

DECONSTRUCTING SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND SCREENING: TUE 7/25 4:00PM & 9:00PM; WED 7/26 6:30PM

Scott and Skyler will perform acoustic classic songs from The Beatles 1/2 hour before each screening!

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most influential albums of our time. Rolling Stone described it as ͞the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. In Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, composer, musician, and Beatles expert Scott Freiman looks at Sgt. Pepper from multiple angles, exploring the history behind the music. Mr. Freiman conducts an educational journey into the creative process of The Beatles performances and recording sessions. You are guaranteed to leave amazed at The Beatles’ innovation in the studio and have a newfound appreciation for the talents of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr. Dir: Scott Freiman / 2017 / US / 95 min / Film

DECONSTRUCTING THE WHITE ALBUM SCREENING: TUE 7/25 6:30PM; WED 7/26 4:00PM & 9:00PM

Released in 1968, the White Album’s thirty songs span almost every style of music from hard rock to country to chamber music to avant garde. Its recording took place during a remarkable year in Beatles history that included the death of Brian Epstein, the creation of Apple Corps, and a trip to India to study meditation. In this multimedia presentation film, Mr. Freiman transports his audience into Abbey Road Studio for a look at the revolutionary techniques used during the production of “Revolution,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird” and other songs from the White Album. It’s an educational journey into the creative process of The Beatles performances and recording sessions, allowing the audience to see and hear the evolution of these groundbreaking songs and understand their lasting influence on popular music. Dir: Scott Freiman / 2017 / US / 90 min / Film

Scott & Skyler Sing The Beatles and Other Songs!

Buzz's Tavern, 5018 Mud Bay Rd NW, Olympia

Join Scott & Skyler out on the deck of Buzz's for an acoustic afternoon packed full of great tunes by The Beatles, The Hard Way and much more! 2-6pm, no cover, 21 & up. C'mon down, it'll be lots of fun!!

Scott n' Sky @ Rhythm & Rye!

Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way, Olympia

Scott & Skyler play an acoustic feature set from 8-9pm at R & R's Wednesday night open mic! Enjoy the awesome music then stay for the open mic and make some awesome music of your own! 21 & Up, No Cover

The Hard Way w/ The Pop Cycle & Black Floyd!

McCoy's Tavern, 418 4th Ave E, Olympia

The Hard Way return to the Olympia stage for the first time in a spell to headline this killer April Fool's Day show! New songs and sursprises coming at ya from THW, plus you'll all be treated to the finest powerpop band in all of Seattle, The Pop Cycle! Oly's mysterious/infamous Black Floyd will kick things off, don't miss it!!

21 & Up, $3 Cover

The Pop Cycle: https://www.facebook.com/ThePopCycleSeattle

https://www.reverbnation.com/thepopcycle

The Hard Way w/ Saint Blasphemer & Swayze Train

4th Ave Tavern, 210 4th Ave E, Olympia

Rock n' Roll @ the 4th to kick off your Halloween weekend with a bang! The Hard Way open the show, followed by SoCal band 'Saint Blasphemer' and Oly's own 'Swayze Train'!! 21 & up

The Radio 8 Ball Show feat. The Hard Way!

Obsidian, 414 4th Ave E, Olympia

The Radio 8 Ball Show invites you to consult The Pop Oracle for this live taping of the latest installment in the R8B series, featuring musical guest The Hard Way! Tickets $23, 21 & Over

Captain Jack Fest 5.0 feat. The Hard Way & Many More!!

Le Voyeur, 404 E 4th Ave, Olympia

Join lots of terrific Olympia bands for this jam-packed summertime musical event! HW play around 10:30pm, yeah!! $3 cover, All Ages til 10pm