Saturday, December 20, 2014

Garden of the Dead First Run

Garden of the Dead

This song was born on the job at a machine shop.

I was at work at the steel saws when a co-worker and friend, Sean, who knew that I wrote songs and jammed with friends, came to me with the first verse of this song and said he was hearing something punk in his head.

 It caught my imagination, and I began to work out a melody and some possible riffs along with the rest of the words. Brent and Alan delved a bit and came up with the riffs and bass line you hear in this tune, and I think my son Levi developed a great percussion for the song.

Lyrically, it was greatly influenced by an experience at a concert by a local Norman Oklahoma group. I'd left my fiancĂ©e's house early because she had to put kiddos to bed and bid me farewell for the evening,  and I wasn't even close to wanting to head back home to my cat and my record collection.  So I went to a neat venue called the Opolis and listened to these guys who were awesome, the Pool Boys.

While I was in the crowd enjoying the music and having a beer, I overheard these kids standing next to me. 

Okay, not kids...when you're 43 people who are 19 and 20 seem like kids. But they are actually the world's adults.

Anyway, they were talking about a mutual acquaintance and one of them said, "Oh yeah, I met her the other night. She came over to my boyfriends house and we almost got in a threesome."

For some reason that comment influenced the direction of the song. And I think that's kind of cool, that a random comment overheard accidentally by a stranger is woven into the process of a song. 

Made me think that that happens alot with singers, poets, authors, painters and film makers, and if that's so, it shows that we are all alot more connected on a subconscious level than we might think at first glance, because  all of us are in an artist's art in some incalculable fashion. There's this ethereal web connecting us and endlessly creating itself anew. 

Some old guy was probably the inspiration for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song "Mr Bojangles". Music was the way the Universe took such a strange character in bittersweet straits and made him live forever for as long as that song is heard. All because a songwriter noticed such a guy, or heard a story about him--I don't know the history of that song but even if it was pure invention, I'm sure it had a thread of a likeness running through it somewhere.

But I digress to strange philosophizing. Must be the hour.

Anyway, we are at odds in the band about song length...some of us want some tracing music and others think the tune is too long and want to compress. Erick wasn't with us when this video was made but he has been helping develop the tune very nicely. 

Don't judge the mistakes here too harshly--this vid is fairly old and we are working hard to get a cleaner and more melodic upload--the finished product as it were. We would like some electronic effects mixed in too, to help carry the listener along, something to kind of relax you for a second before the final wave, kind of like, well you know. Yeah, we're not right, as Brent would say.

But overall, though you can tell we were still feeling our way through parts, we feel the song has chops. Some friends have told me it's too long, I see their point, but we have an end in mind, and for me, I like the instrumental section of this song, even if we had a bump getting into it. I love the long lead with it's little beeps and the bass dancing underneath. 

As an interesting side note, the sudden primal scream you hear come in alongside the second verse was not scripted--it came about because another musician named Brian was in the Bourbon Shed with us watching the OU game. OU had just scored a touchdown and Brian vocalized his elation in a manner that would not interrupt our recording. You can see our bassist Alan, also a big OU fan, look up and watch the game even as he continues to hammer along. Hey, it worked out, the scream is very cool, I think. Brent, Alan and Brian are part of another band called Reverend Gunn along with Alan's nephew Wes.

Thanks for reading.

Garden of the Dead Lyrics

I was walkin down the street
But my head was in the sea
Where I found you underneath me
In that Garden of the Dead in that Garden of the Dead.

In the Garden plant a seed
Is it a flower? Is it a weed?
Is it something understood?
Is it evil, is it good?
Is it what you like? Is it what you need?
Either way, you're gonna feed
Either way, you're gonna bleed
In that garden of the dead, in that garden of the dead.

I saw a beast in the garden of the dead
Had two backs had two eyes in it's head
It had two souls but it only had one will
It lived to die, it died to live, it had to kill
It gave a hiss it a gave a roar it gave a moan
It had a heart of flesh that slowly turned to stone
It was well fed but it always wanted more
Youre a sinner youre a saint youre a whore

In that garden of the Dead!

Such pretty petals in the Garden of the Dead
Too bad they cut you like a knife
Lets make a Garden of Love instead
Lets make a Garden of Life

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sweet Days of the Sun

Days of the Sun is intended to be the title track of the eventual compilation of Devil Tree music we hope to mine from the current loose and rough archive we’ve been building in our jam sessions.

 It’s also kind of a motif and a statement by us as band because, although our music contains some darker themes and sounds, ultimately we want to strike a positive note. You could say that some of our sound reflects a haunted pessimism about life but which nevertheless contains a recurring streak of optimism that tries to have the final word.

The current version of Days to be heard at the Reverbnation page was the first song we worked out as a band, though on that particular Saturday we had not as yet been joined by Alan and his bass. Levi was not yet playing drums, but was finding his way around on the guitar and playing back up to Brent, who was directing both myself and Levi since we came to Devil Tree as complete novices to jamming and creating rock music. We had no drummer and didn’t know Levi was going to fill that chair so we used a canned drum beat from a music software program.

Levi has played guitar in other spiritual settings so he had some notion of what to do and Brent lined him out with a mellow riff that he could keep at while I sang. This was the jumping off place where we shut out the doubts and the fears and just plunged in with much encouragement from Brent, who is in another band and has been a musician since childhood.

With the lyrics and a basic melody in my mind, I just followed their music and we worked it out. The vocals were laid in separately for the final mix, and Brent then overlaid his solos. I’m glad we worked on Days first because as I have said, it’s a genesis of who and what we are and the sound we are trying to let open us.

A listen to the lyrics of Days of the Sun reveals immediately that it was conceived of as a song after a very dark journey, and it’s actually very autobiographical and personal, although the evil woman theme was an invention because it fit. If you have ever walked in those places you know that it is not at all about who is good or who is evil but is about forgiveness of self and others, about realizing mistakes, and ultimately about surviving and loving again. That part, sweetly, is not invented. The chorus really is a sort of hymn and a paen to the the Sun and the way that no matter what happens, when it rises to meet you again after a dark night, there is reason to smile. Like mercies are new every morning. Kind of like, I am still alive and I didn’t think that was going to happen. And it feels good, like a kiss from your love when the night told you love was never coming back.

In Devil Tree, we all contribute to the writing. Some are written in their entirety out of session by individuals who bring them to the jamming place and offer them for consideration, other times we just start with some riffing and let the music call forth images and moods, and from that I try to begin with a phrase or a line about what I’m seeing it, that leads to other lines, and this person or that offers a suggestion or a line. We try very hard to be original but there is always an influence from a favorite album or song, too. Titles come later with this method but usually from the chorus.

When I write songs they will sometimes be complete fantasy or a made up story that I can’t consciously attribute to any real event, although there is usually a seed of an experience or a memory. Other songs (Days is one of them) are written from life with sparse embellishments. The tone set by the guitars carries the meaning and the declaration of the lyrics perfectly and really offset the melancholy substance of the words.

With this song, when we re-do it with our full ensemble, we will work hard to make the definitive and final recorded version retain the original flavor, although now with a bassist and drummer involved, it must change a bit. We know how loose and rough our stuff sounds on Reverb at the moment but it was uploaded in spite of this for several reasons, not least of which was to serve as copyright protection by way of providing an online archeology to our work , to provide a basis to work from, and to feel like we were doing something and to share that with our friends, family and others. The criticism and advice from other musicians through doing this has been invaluable.

It’s potentially painful to open up our creative process in this manner, especially since a couple of us are complete acolytes to band creativity and music in general. Thankfully, we’ve gotten mostly positive feedback and very little outright skepticism or frowns. And we have opened ourselves up to quite a few people, some family, some friends, some co-workers and some strangers, who respond to what we are doing from an unbiased view, and that has been completely helpful as well as encouraging. Also, the criticism and advice from other musicians through doing this has been invaluable.

In the end, we see what we are doing as a personal cleansing of old ghosts and fears , of negative attitudes and reflexive living. We have a shared vision, a very enjoyable chemistry in our sessions, and a lot of fun. And we are striving for art and a new direction. None of us are classically or academically trained musicians and we don’t make that kind of music, which we revere and admire. Instead, we are following in the footsteps of some of our favorite bands and guitarists who relied upon playing by ear, memory and recordings. Beethoven is truly like God, but the soundtracks of our youth were the albums we listened to again and again in our rooms or with friends and which spoke to us in our loneliness and confusion as heirs of a complex modern age, even though many of the singers and players  on those albums were not all trained musicians. But learning new things is certainly something we are interested in, as well.

On a final note, I will say that the first time you hear a song that you wrote and have lived coming out of speakers as a result of shared work and vision, it will always be one of the greatest experiences of your life. It’s really magic on that level alone and has been its own reward. Thanks for reading!