Buy it now- and only here you get 2 bonus tracks!!!

illustration: www.JenRayIllustration.com


So here I am now, a much, much different person after the whirlwind that has been the past year and a half, now living in Berlin, and writing about my 4th album. “Shamelessly Exciting” has been a labor of love more intense than anything I have created before. More love, sweat, physical and mental anguish have gone into this album than anything I have done. It’s been a long process, with many highs and lows, but here I am, finally, at the end.

Ok, so this list of comments is designed to spark some conversation, and let you know a little about what I have been thinking about for the past 18 months. The rules are, I type these comments while I listen to my CD, and when the song is over I have to move on to the next song. As always, if there’s something you want to discuss as a result of these notes, please feel free to email me: cockrockdisco@gmail.com


To start off, I want to slap you, the listener, up side your face and say- “Come the fuck on; let’s fucking ROCK!”

I feel like so much music- electronic, rock, etc is just so safe and boring. All these corporate “underground” rock bands are so predictable; you never have anyone actually doing what their media images project that they do. There’s been a death of decadence in music, which I think extends to something we’ve lost in our culture- our ability to go wild. Also, rarely do you hear something so loud and rockin that you just say “wha tha fuaa…” with your mouth hanging open. THIS is what I’m looking for.

I think that the last major movement of music/fashion that had real integrity was probably the New Wavers. I think this is why so many people are still fascinated by ripping them off, because it was the last really original aesthetic where people lived it all the way. With Grunge, you had this too, but this never really ended or rather it just turned into a more homogenized Indy rock. Anyway, my point is that in the 80’s you had a genre of music that was trying to be modern yet heartfelt, but also undercut authority, while still being ostentatious.

I was trying to do all these things with this one, but at the same time, I knew that this song needed to provide you with a bit more of a break, and a bit more of a musical challenge after “Walls”. Also, I did this right after everyone started spouting off about the Grime thing, and I do like these weird off-kilter beats.

Ah, the Yes guitar solo… This part reminds me of seventies hippies in a fake Scarborough Fair setting… banners hanging from an oak tree… Oh, and that’s me playing Harmonica. I play guitar (sort of) and some percussion on this album as well, which is a first.

This is basically exactly what it sounds like. I started downloading all my favorite punk tracks from when I was a kid (original cassettes in storage back in the US), and realized how much power these songs had and still have. Also, I realized how poppy so much of this was, with melodies that really stick in your head, and that it wasn’t so fast all the time. Anyway, after some other versions, I decided that it should simply be ALL of my favorites instead of just a few. It gets a bit screwed up (in punk terms at least) by the acid-y part, but I felt it important to try to update the sound, not simply replicate, but take it a step further.

Again, it is titled what it sounds like. Oh, that’s a bit of Revolution No. 9 at the beginning, and I sampled it because Jack Dangers also sampled this exact part on one of the early Meat Beat Manifesto records. Man, I am so influenced by Meat Beat and Public Enemy. In the very earliest seconds of the album there’s a bit that says ‘too strong’ and that was from the beginning of a PE rec as well. I had this idea called ‘sampling the samplers’ where you go through and sample the same thing as someone else, but by doing this you make a reference to both the original and the other sampler. I play these little conceptual games all the time...

Anyway, to me this song is made by a band. Not just one guy, because I tried to write the guitar parts, bass parts, drums, and keyboards so that they could be played by a band. Of course, I have to do this via samples of bits and pieces, but either way, it’s the same. A song is a song. Also I wanted the melodies on this song to be like a Cars track- really simple, but effective, using an economy of notes.

http://www.sonig.com/main/downloads_free/Nightclothes.mp3
So like many, I was very, very saddened by the unexpected death of John Peel. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Peel in person, but I felt as though I knew him. Like so many other artists, he championed my music since the very beginning, and because of this he ended up really pushing me artistically via his support. So when he died, I was on some email lists from the Peel show people and also on the list was fellow WFMU DJ Laura Cantrell. . For those of you that don’t know her work, Laura is probably one of the US’s best new country singers with a wit, charm and soul reminiscent of the REAL greats like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, etc. I wouldn’t be the first person to say that I was really stunned by her voice the first second I heard her sing.

So anyway, I saw Laura’s name on this list and knew her just a tiny bit and decided to ask her if she would collaborate. I suggested it should be about Peel, or at least the idea of radio. She agreed, I made the music, and we met in NYC. We (well, mostly Laura) wrote the lyrics and melody extremely fast and recorded everything in about 3-4 hours total. I am so moved by Laura’s generosity and this track really touches me when I hear it. I get teary all over again even after hearing it countless times.

FUCK YEAH! WE’RE BACK TO ROCKIN!!!!
Another reason I think so much of the commercial music is really sucking these days is because no one ever makes something that really is LOUD. Volume is important. Ears need to bleed, necks need to sprain, bells need to ring!

About halfway through this one, I wanted to do something artier, like walk the listener outside… and this is exactly what I did with a cassette recorder. But this goes into this funny steel drum synth solo. Obviously people have made a big fuss about me being the sample guy, but I consider my usage of samples more akin with what the art-world calls appropriation. Appropriation is more about using a pre-existing source for it’s historical, social, political, emotional and subjective value. Anyway, for this solo I grabbed the midi files from Bloody Well Right by Supertramp online and then cut it up and changed around the voices. I think this is a new idea in sampling. Not merely based on actual samples, but on appropriating musical ideas.

Like I mentioned earlier, I have been interested in exploring what some call “light rock”, others “soft rock”, and those in the know “Am Gold”. This song is a tribute to all the bands like Little River Band, 10cc, Poco, Pablo Cruise, etc. It’s made from these artists samples, but more so, I was really interested in reviving the overall “AM Gold” feeling. Smooth but not dumb and never merely artificial. Like the Prog rockers- many of these artists were pushing their craft, in this case with pop music, and on a massive scale.

I knew I wanted to have a true saxophone solo on the album, somewhere, and I asked Chris Sattinger/Timeblind to drop by and do the job. Really, he’s a monster on the horn even though he wouldn't admit it. Then, I processed it, cut it up, etc etc, and Andi Toma from Mouse on mars is to be credited with making it sort distorted to sound like a trumpet there. He did that in the mixing process and it really works.

I have to say a bit about this keyboard counter melody that runs through the second half of the song. For this, I copied the bass line from the fantastic song ‘Dreamweaver’ by Gary Wright, and then I took this bass line, moved it up 3 octives, and then adjusted the chords to this new song. So is this sampling or is this musical appropriation? The result is something removed from the original, but if you know this pattern, it leaves a reference.

... And we don’t have enough really light fun stuff around either. I imagine this song really as a Saturday morning cartoon, in the old “school house rock” style, sort of shakily drawn, with lots of pastel shooting stars, etc. I think it has a quite narrative feel too, sort of leading you through, but with a bit of a folk-rock/country swing. Massive thanks go to Alan Schneider for giving me a mp3 Cd “Am Gold”, with literally 10 + hours of great music to work with. Many of these songs were created from this fantastic archive.

Maybe I should also say a word about Gerry Rafferty who I was listening to a ton when I made this track. He’s another unsung Am Gold hero, and a really amazing songwriter. If you listen hard you can hear a bit of his big hit “Baker St.” in there.

I also think its really important to make a rocking record now. With so much music tending towards the bucolic, we need some excitement. We need some life and some real passion. We need people to make mistakes, and get drunk, and then be embarrassed in the morning. This is life, but for some reason its not in music anymore. What happened?

For some reason, my parents seemed to only love bands with “&” in their name. And one of these was Blood Sweat & Tears. This is cut up from about 3 of their songs, and cut with more stuff to expand it. Anyway, BS&T fucking rock man. They were progressive in a very grassy way. You always see them in corduroys. This is some how related to why this is called War Photographer. If songs were people, then this would be a late 60’s war photographer with thick dark hair and beard, draped in olive and khaki photographers gear.
I have been a big fan of Maja Ratjke ever since I heard her album “Voice” from a few years ago. I welled up the courage to email her and ask her if she wanted to collaborate with me, and much to my surprise she knew who I was, and agreed. I sent her a CDR with 3 unfinished songs, and 3 “finished” ones, so she could get an idea of what I was going for. 3 weeks later I got a CDR back in the mail with 24 audio tracks of her singing to the first of the “finished” songs…. Obviously she improved it dramatically.

And then we get to the one intangible, unpredictable idea in music that you find by luck: the catchy melody. The Germans call it an ‘Ear Worm’ and this idea I really adore. What better way to end a record than with a long, catchy, but experimental ear worm? I think all great albums have at least one psychedelic freak out section, and here it is. That voice in back is actually Marionetti reading from his Futurist manifesto.

Now we’re at the end. When I hear this part, I think it’s just a party. We’ve come such a long way, and now we’re celebrating. We’re all friends, we’re tired, but still excited, happy to be rocking, we’re cutting loose, savoring it. We know we’ll have to start all over again in a few days, more work, more ups and downs, but for now, we’re here and we want it to last. Evil doesn’t exist anymore, except for the world. The great optimism and pessimism of our lives wrapped up in one.

 

Buy it now- and only here you get 2 bonus tracks!!!