Sunday, April 20, 2014

Shot Order

close up of a mouth eating breakfast
long shot of cars stuck in traffic

cut to a man on a train
scratching the scab on his face

zoom in on you in the mirror
putting on your makeup it’s serious

pan to your ancestors tilling the soil 
forward a millennia they’re sold as toys

follow a conversation
of a middle aged couple
struggling with a handle 
on a world they can’t control

trying to feel romantic
without a sense of desperation
surrounded by advertisements
for electric cars

wide shot of a crowd leaving the subway 
armies of phones glowing like insects
we track a girl of nineteen
texting her parents for money

at this point in the action I do my walk on 
evoking kitsch Russian ads for tampons

I smile then I look in your face
you scream and run away

( I give chase on my Segway )

zoom out as this song
plays in the background
life looks beautiful
the world is cruel

all captured in 
a spinning solar system
framed by 

an indifferent universe

Sunday, March 9, 2014


A new set of songs. I've written 300. Why write more? There are always new thoughts, new travels, new books, new people. I must expunge them from my consciousness. I contrive to write using various tricks:

1. Different chord sequences.

2. Different grooves/rhythms/tempos.

3. No nostalgia.

4. No imaginary romance.

Without a theory background, new ideas come from listening to large amounts of music and an active dialogue with other music quacks. Ron Kane, Eric Gregory, or Suely Mesquita in my case. My late father and grumpy older brother, in other ways. 

I cheat. I use software and books to tell me what chords fit in a key. I ignore them, then follow what feels rock and roll. 

I reverse engineer a punishing melody until it leaves me alone. 

When 10-12 of these nightmares are over, I try them in various orders and tempos and occasionally switch keys to suit my voice. I then let them bake for a few months, reappraise the songs. Do I have the urge to make them public? Do they compel me to embarrass myself in front of an audience with them? Good. 

Now, I'm broke. These moronic NYC musicians want to be paid, regardless if it's only Nina and her friend that come to my "show." I must write more, use my guitar like a knife to cut something out of myself. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Writing vs. Waiting

I just wrote a completely different set of lyrics to a song that I wrote a dozen years ago. When sequencing the album it was a part of, I realized I had to many of one kind of song- mopey coulda, woulda, shoulda numbers and that this balance didn't reflect the sort of work I wanted to put out.

Although I couldn't articulate what was wrong with the mix of songs I had at the time, I knew I experienced an uncertain feeling whenever I listened to the sequence. I thought the problem was my vocal approach. After trying to sing one of the doomed songs a few dozen time, the slow realization that the problem was with the writing took seed. It's impossible to sing a poorly written song well. This also happens when the lyrics don't jive with the tone of the music.

Sometimes you write something where the emotional tone is off- Georges Moustaki once write that good songs must feel true emotionally. Something hasn't jived between the lyrics, vocal melody and chords. Perhaps you feel as a singer that you can't fully own the rage that you've written- it's not in your palette or perhaps it's not true to your life experiences. I'm finding myself more and more ditching whole sets of lyrics when this happens.

Anyways, it's the metacognition that pays off. I rewrote several  completely new lyrics for the exiting music (keeping my all-time favorite albums in mind as a reference) and felt that I got the right balance of the kind of songs (first person narratives, prayers, work-chants, cathartic rants, etc.) that I'd like to hear on an album I'd buy. I put it on the shelf for a little more time to make sure I still feel this way later.

Some people feel that songwriting is some mystical non-reflective process, but as Suely Mesquita pointed out on the book we collaborated on, there's really two parts to creativity- the unconscious/inspirational part, then the learned, experienced, editing part.

Monday, February 24, 2014

You Invented Sex


 You Invented Sex

you were so bored
you couldn't feel any more

fell into parts

you felt so cold
the work was hard

so you 
made something up

you invented sex
it seemed like a good idea
though I had thought of it first
you gave it wheels
think of the people
hurting in this life

that could be
healed with this thing

taking off their clothes
getting so close 

if they knew
what would disappear

you invented sex
what a scary thing

maybe it will never work
maybe it's too weird

touching each other
dissolving all fear

how could anyone
return to their work?

Sunday, February 16, 2014


put on your red dress
I'll wear my pressed shirt
meet me at the place
I'll bring records

we'll share the bread
with yesterday's soup
go on take the lipstick
and those flat shoes

we'll go cakewalking
like our betters do
they've got things
we got moves

on the avenue
night throws off the day
the mood's rising like the moon

teasing appetites
being the street life
twisting the city 
as we unwind

putting everything beneath our feet
dancing on our liberties
hands in the pants of the city
a swift kick after a squeeze

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In a Musical Way

I want a life as bright as these chords I play
I want to live my life in a musical way--
Birds singing, a milkman whistling, a fat happy maid
Pancake-flipping oh yeah

I go to work against reality
Battling the world with my bare feelings
My heart never leads me astray
Just as long as I continue singing

I'm playing the part of an underachiever
In an out of town run that goes on forever
You could be the disaffected lover
Whose heart swells on an orchestra cue

Dancing our way past the fear
That anything wonderful's not real
Harmonizing on a melody
That worms its way into your dreams

Spotlights, pink tights, alcoholics
Costume, scenery, nervous breakdowns 
We're switching scenes like hand puppets
Up until the curtain comes down

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Major Chords

"Life doesn't happen in major chords," said Martin Gore of Depeche Mode in an interview once.

It’s a challenge to use them…to appeal to the universal without sounding too preachy, didactic, or too simple. If you stay small, the work lacks resonances. I don’t think there’s a formula to this, more of a recipe that is constantly reworked.  

It’s knowing when to strike the universal chord that balances the whole piece. When you change directions of the tempest you’ve created.

Yeah, so you bridge your most intimate, subjective experiences with the force of the powerful mathematics. That’s the meat of it.