Liner notes for One of Us

The following paragraphs appeared in the CD booklet I made for each of the few physical copies of One of Us that ever saw existence. After them I present new notes about the old tracks, something Harlan Ellison does in most of his story collections. I made these songs a while back, but I'll try to remember what I can, for those interested.

Strange that an album called "One of Us" contains so many songs about lonely people. Most of the songs are about me. A few are tributes to people who are still struggling to find a place to belong in and people to care for them. I hope they find what they need.

Growing up was hard, but I was lucky. Others had it much worse. But it hurt to leave my innocence behind, and it hurts now to look back on the child I was and see him go through so much pain. Not even the prism of memory can filter out that pain. I've lost something in growing older, but as Lester Burnham said, it's never too late to get it back.

These songs were written over a long period of time, from when I was seventeen till just this year. So I guess it took ten years to write this album. Songs are cathartic. If I feel sad or angry, I write a song and put those emotions into it. So the song can be angry or sad for me, and I can get on with my life. If I hadn't written these songs, I would have self-destructed long ago.

If you find yourself unable to become one of them, unload all that baggage. Write. Laugh. Sing. And live forever.

I play bass guitar, drum machine, computer synthesizer, sticks, plastic ware, desk, desk chair, and bicycle. Crickets and rain provided by madam earth.

Kapila Ushana plays didgeridoo on "Make it Shine." Thanks.

Thanks to George Glass who lent me the drum machine and showed me this was possible. Without your encouragement, I never would have made the album.

And just to say, "When the Ravens Took Flight" is based on the Pink Floyd song "When the Tigers Broke Free." I tried.

Picture of me with a cape was probably taken by my mom. Those superpowers never did develop. Henry Rollins appears through no fault of his own. I hope he doesn't sue me. Picture of me in makeup was taken by Kristi Howard. Good luck in all you do, wherever you are.

Speak No Smoke

Living on my own at the time, I was in the habit of going out for a jog in the dark of night. Down that lonely road in the mountains, I found several of the songs on this album. I sang them to myself as I ran back home to write them down. This was one of them.

As you can see, the drumming staggers out of synch with the guitar at times. I was using George's drum machine, playing live along with the guitar tracks, tapping out beats with my fingers on the touch pads. This was my first attempt at making a drum track. I got better as I went along.

Honeysuckle Wine

Other than the harmonic pluck that announces the bridge, the guitar track is a single take recorded during a rainstorm, the mic placed between amp and open balcony door. The thunder-like sound you hear during the bridge is me rubbing a drumstick up and down the legs of a tripod with the mic taped to the top of the tripod. I recorded the bass part without rehearsing and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to play. So what you hear is a record of the first and only time I ever played this song.

Live Forever

I wanted a sound from childhood, so I turned my ten-speed upside-down and recorded the chain being run backwards. Then I clothespinned a playing card in the spokes and recorded that, too. The sounds of the second half were inspired by my jogging trips through the country. I heard crickets and bull frogs singing songs I couldn't interpret, so I tried to copy them. The cymbal taps are supposed to be fireflies flashing in the darkness.

Fairytale

Musically, the weakest of all the songs on the album. But the lyrics are pretty good. Dark, but pretty good.

Glitter

This is the one where I play desk and desk chair. I had these two little sticks that once had sugar-crystal lollipops on them. I beat them along the edge of my desk to get different tones, added echo effects, and layered the sound a few times. For the bass line, I wore a key around my neck on a chain and let the key bounce against the guitar string as I played. The thumping bass drum sound is just me slapping my leather chair with a drumstick.

I actually performed this song live once. I gave everyone in the audience a pair of sticks and had them beat out a rhythm on tables, chairs, bar stools, each other. And I chanted the lyrics. One of my favorite open-mic memories.

You Won't Come

The bridge section of this song is my favorite instrumental break of the whole album. I was getting better at multi-layering my music. One of the sounds is a quarter scraping down the length of a guitar string.

By the time I recorded this, I was more at ease with my voice and aware of what it could do. I sang this a capella at a poetry reading. A guy said I had a good voice, which gave me confidence. Another poet said I should rename the song "You Won't Come Inside." What the hell did she know?

Make It Shine

The best recording I ever made, and rightfully the centerpiece of the album. I brought Kapila over to play didgeridoo on "When the Ravens Took Flight", but he found it too dark and plodding. He wanted to see what he could do on this one. You can hear him at the end saying "That might be even better." He was commenting on his second go at recording a didge track, but I know it also refers to the piece as a whole. We played this live once and enjoyed every minute of it.

This was the third track I used the drum machine on. By then I was better at it, still playing live on the tap-pads. I'm no Neil Peart, but I think it turned out nice.

Freaks

This is one of my favorite lyrics from the album. I often write songs with two acts. I wanted the bridge section to have a clanky toy piano. I looked in every flea market in town, but couldn't find one. So I used one of the synth sounds built into my computer. Playing music on a QWERTY keyboard is not pleasant.

The super heavy guitar sound was done post-recording. It's the result of several layers of various distortions. I love it.

When the Ravens Took Flight

Another song written on a dark country road. Don't you think a didgeridoo would sound great on this song? No? How about a bathroom fan? I tried lots of tricks with this one, and even the ones that made it in don't quite sound right. I played the guitar part by rolling an industrial ball bearing along the strings. A cool sound I have a hard time working into songs. But this time it seemed right. The weird plastic box/drum hits, not so much. Why not go back and clean up the mistakes? you may ask. I'd rather make new mistakes than repair old ones.

Wish I was There

I was depressed when I wrote this. Imagine that. I was living in my mom's garage, just got dumped, and I didn't feel anything I did mattered to anyone. Songs never do much. But with this one, I tore out the depression like a bloody tumor and pinned it to my notebook. Helped a little.

The guitar solo is cool, but out of place. But I was happy it came together at all, so I kept it in. Aren't the three different voices saying the same thing at the end cool? Myself as trinity.

Jack

Another rocker. I'm very proud of how all the parts come together, the low bass, the higher distorted strumming, the drums. Good dynamic. The final sound I accidentally recorded. I think it's the springs of my desk chair fed through the same distortion that chewed up the guitar. Or maybe it's my anger manifest in digital form.

Chameleon

I really thought this would end up as a filler song, but it turned out way better than I thought. I just wish I hadn't sung the intro part twice. And it could maybe use some drumming. The flanged reverb guitar quickly became one of my favorite sounds. You'll hear it later, I promise.

Back Then

I think I may have written this song in the shower. I love the chord progression here, though I'm not sure you can call two-note combinations actual chords. This was the only song where I used a semi-professional mic to record the vocal. Not sure how it ended up sounding like this, but I like it. This is the oldest song on the album, by the way. And I still play it once in a while. It comes back like breathing.

From the Ditch

The sound collage was fun to do, something I put to use in another song I hope to have up soon. I wanted to put a drum track on this one, but George took the machine away from me to use on his own stuff. It was also fun just to jam without having to support a melody. I just managed to avoid letting it drag on too long.

George took the machine away. There's a song title.


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Vestigial
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Vestigial by Michael Channing