Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Don't Wanna Be Here

I used to be in a band, a fairly fierce little three-piece bar-band, called ourselves Scooby Don't. We worked hard to furnish our (mostly unappreciative) audiences with lots of lush three-part harmonies and energetic but disciplined instrumental arrangements. We played music that we liked -- which was probably why audiences tended to yawn and look at their watches when we played. Too much XTC, not enough "In the Midnight Hour," which is what a bar-band audience wants, after all.

(We solved this a couple of falls ago when Xtcfan and I formed The Harridans with Bobby Lightfoot for a single, transcendent evening when we played nothing but great bar-band music for a very appreciative audience indeed. We gotta do that again, and fuckin' soon.)

We used to open with an Andy Partridge number that never got past the demo stage in Andy's output, called "I Don't Wanna Be Here." (We thought it was pretty funny to open a set with a song with that title. The drunks pretty much didn't get the joke. Can't imagine why.) I don't know why Partsy didn't have a huge international smash with it -- it's just hooky as all hell. We took a rather bare-bones demo and fleshed it out for three voices, trying to fill in all the empty spaces with Entertainment Value. I do believe we may have actually done a fairly decent job of it.

The song came back into my consciousness last week -- just earwormed its way in there. I decided I needed to work up the Scooby Don't arrangement for posterity. Of course, being in possession of recording software and gear that only ten years ago would have cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, the temptation to add a few extras was too great to resist, and so I sorta went to town. Nineteen tracks, it finally ended up taking. Having started out on four-track cassette in 1993, to me this seems like the sort of home-recording extravagance that led to the fall of Rome.

I found some bits and pieces for the opening collage at The Freesound Project, some industrial noises, a heartbeat and some human vocalizations that sounded pretty amusing when arranged rhythmically. That's what you hear in the opening moments.

There's something almost sexual about double-tracking your own voice. (Or perhaps the better term is masturbatory?) You sing the thing once, then roll back to the top and sing it as close as you can to exactly the same way again on another track. With your own voice being fed back to you, the singing the second time through is completely effortless, and what you hear is just ungodly great. It's like you just open your mouth and something fantastic just falls out, with no work from you.

The guitar part was lots of fun to track. In GarageBand, I tend to track a naked, uneffected guitar, and only after I'm done playing it do I feed the track to a guitar-amp simulator. You go from Wimpy Twang to Big-Haired Monster with the click of a button. This guitar needed to be really huge, and so I duplicated the track, panned the two tracks hard left and right, and moved one of the recordings an infinitesimally small amount into the past -- I think it was 0.011 of a second. Then I fed the left-hand guitar to a Mesa Boogie amp simulator, and the right to a Marshall. The result, as you will hear, does possess a fairly hefty pair of gonads.

And so, without further ado, I give you...

I Don't Wanna Be Here (pops)


Simon said...

Oooh, very fun!

I've tried the same 'after-amping' effect myself, including the slight delay, and it never sounds remotely good. I guess it's down to the skill of the original track.

Isn't it insane that a song this good only has 'outtake' status?

Dr. Corndog said...

Fookin' sweet, Neddie! The guitar was so deliciously chunky, it took me 3/4 of the track to realize I wasn't hearing any bass. And if th' Harridans play another gig, please let us fanwanks know. I'll be the one with bells on.

EmployeeoftheMonth said...

One of my favorite Andy lyrics. FSM, I love this song.

blue girl said...

Whoa. That was just great, Jeddie. I loved it.

Cool song.

Seems to me for some reason, that if you were playing that one live, it would be hard to keep that even tempo throughout. It's so *in the middle* -- seems like an easy one to rush. And if it slowed down, it would totally lose its sparkle. Your version was perfect!

I'm with dr. corndog, if you guys ever get back together to play out, I'd definitely consider making the trip to come and listen.

I'd be a total groupie!

Neddie said...

Argh. I just typed a bunch of answers to your comments, and a router glitch lost them all. Let's try again, shall we:


The trick with the delay is to keep it very short. Too much time, and you're into Deep Mud.

I haven't ignored your last email; I just need 15 minutes in the studio to compose a reply. This tuney has passing tones a-plenty; listen to the bass under "Day again/But it may again."

Corndog: Your presence at the last Harridans gig was greatly appreciated, and I'll certainly aprise you of the next one (should it ever happen).

EOTM: WTF does "FSM" mean? Federal Supply Management? Flamboyant Stream Media?

Blue Girl: Thank you!

I hope you understand the full meaning of the term "groupie": Frank Zappa's definition: "Groupies are women who appreciate the members of a rock band very much." Pay careful attention to the connotations of "members"; I don't want any Unpleasant Surprises popping up.

blue girl said...

Dream on, Jeddie!

Jeremy said...

Do the gig last two weeks of August and even I will be there.

knuoi tmakessense

Jeremy said...

p.s. Ned; on my iTunes you fit right there between Nanci Griffth and Neko Case, which seems about right.

EmployeeoftheMonth said...

Flying Spaghetti Monster


JC said...

Delicious Pop, but decidedly not "bar band music," unless you are playing at the Ear Inn, or sharing the bill with the Flaming Lips. Face it, your understated mid-tempo melodies are an affront to every knuckle-scraping fan of "Bar Rock."

EOTOM: Beware. Ye shall not take His name in vain, or He shall smite ye from the sky on high with scalding Rotini, and rain Hot Sauce upon ye.

B Tween said...

Yeah! If you need a bass player, I'm there!

Kevin Wolf said...

Excellent, Neddie. One of the best of the Fuzzy Warbles and you've done it justice. Love the crunchy guitar.

billy pilgrim said...

Nice, Neddie. I never heard that song by Partridge. So I'm gonna think of it as a Jingo single.

btw, do you compile the drums right in Garageband, or do you use a drum machine?