2006 – 2004 marks a particular mental state in my life – the tail end of grade 8, and the early years of High School. December 2004 would mark the beginning of a ferocious struggle with depression that would last for nearly a decade, and a battle to continue to develop myself as an artist in the face of it.
At this time, the main difference in my recording style is that my Dad graciously supported the construction of a little corner of my part of the house to become a recording room. Corked walls, double-pane windows, microphones, Cubase editing software – we got the essentials for a good sound. Despite the essentials, I never took lessons how to really record properly – although I did get better at studio recording as I went along, that’s for sure. If it sounds better & clearer, its probably because I did it in the studio.
This was right around the time when my arrogance was starting to suck the life out of me, so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to approach things with the same passion and aliveness I had for music as a tween. Actually, worried is an understatement – I was silently inconsolable. I refused to talk to anyone about it, but it was killing me. I felt intensely guilty, and my mind became hardwired into bullying myself. I was devastated that I didn’t seem to enjoy anything like I used to – not even close. Even though I had almost no love for it, music was still an obsession. There were moments where the veil would lift and I could create music in peace, but a lot of this period was a slog. An intense slog. Even though my creative output was still mildly high, I was definitely fighting depression every second of every day. And it was this way for years and years. I was scared of stepping away from music despite simultaneously having no passion for it. I stuck around because I had devoted so much energy to it, and the acting auditions weren’t coming any more. It was out of fear and survival, and the occasional glimmer of hope and enjoyment that I stayed. I didn’t know how to just be a teenager, be normal, and be at school. I was hell bent on being ‘special’, even if it was killing me. I certainly regretted these years for a while in more than a few ways.
I made a lot of music, and wrote many more songs that recordings don’t really exist of, but I could still play them now if asked. Heck, perhaps I’ll sprinkle in recordings of those in here as time goes on. There’s also a lot of stuff from these years recorded on Minidisk, but that would be brutal to sift through. There’s literally days worth of nonstop music & dictation there. For now, lets jump into it, and I’ll say more throughout the track observations.
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Hitler! The One Man Rock Opera, Demos & Rarities 06,
Demos & Rarities 05, Demos & Rarities 04, A Company Of Fools
Everything Else: Videos , Lyrics/Poems Etc
Hitler! The One-Man Rock Opera! (2006)
I was fourteen for another month. I had just gotten a drum set. I threw myself into making a project for History class – a musical about Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany. Needless to say, I got a very good grade. One of the strangest and most satisfying memories I can recall is me performing the entire satirical ‘rock opera’ for my History class. They were enraptured, couldn’t get their eyes off it! It would make a great scene in a movie. I felt like I truly interrupted the humdrum mindlessness of school life by creating something so strange and controversial, and then for it to be respected – that was awesome!! I suspect only at PCVS could that degree of acceptance happen in small-town Ontario at the time. I even got to put it on in the auditorium one time during lunch because they loved it so much! I’ll never forget the school announcement in the morning about it – they really had to clarify that it was ‘satire’ in the announcement, but I admire them for letting it happen.
There’s some footage of me putting it on in the auditorium – I dress up as Hitler, and as a general performer. There’s little interludes between songs as I change costumes. I was lent a vintage mic by one of the drama teachers for the performance as well, which really helped tie it together.
These versions have full vocals, and blend bits from the feed of that live auditorium performance with studio vocals.
Something about this was so dark and twisted, that it allowed me to focus my dark, depressed energies into something constructive. It helped release some of the twists inside me – and, it was a wonderful lesson in courage, and of going to dangerous, fresh places creatively. There’s nothing more satisfying. However, my depression ultimately took me off my perch again later in the year, and it would be a while after this and that summer before I really dug into anything musically creative & daring, with the same intensity.
For the full lyric & chord booklets, click here.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
‘Hitler’s Overture’ has some very interesting memories attached to it. I remember how exciting this was to create. It was truly conceptual – bringing in real Hitler speech audio into it – having a full band sound for the first time that I was completely designing – even if that band was just me (with some of the drumming from my drum teacher, J.R Robertson), and even if I was bad at plenty of the instruments. It feels very Pink Floyd, and definitely gives a very dark, eerie feeling. It’s also inspired by the instrumental that inspired me to really get into music, ‘Funeral For A Friend’ by Elton John. This tune is actually pretty brilliant at moments – such sensitive, melodic electric guitar. I’m very proud of things throughout this, for its time. I also obsessed over mixing it, so it has a nice, full sound in various instances, and throughout the whole album. What’s funny about this as an overture is that many of these little musical motifs I establish – never appear again! The album also – generally had drums recorded last, which is NOT the smartest way to make music. No click tracks, no nothing! So, in subtle ways, the timing is always changing, and the other instruments are often guessing when to move to the next note. Especially with a bloody musical, you really shouldn’t leave timing to chance. This track ends by quoting a very dark Elton song called ‘Ticking’ from 1974’s ‘Caribou’. Very apt choice – a haunting song about a disturbed individual.
‘King Of The World’ – To get the full effect, you have to listen to it on CD for the transitions. The ending works well for the Overture leading into this, with no loading time in between. Nice, and abrupt – like you’re suddenly shot back 70 years ago. This song takes place, I suppose, during WW2. This ‘radio edit’ just took out a minute right around 5 minutes in that was very messy (and because I couldn’t find a recording of that 8 minute version, with drums), but I have that added to the end of the playlist, because it is sweet still, if not necessary. But heck, its a rock opera, its supposed to be excessive. The ‘Don’t Be A Jew’ harmony got huge laughs. Super entertaining stuff, this whole thing is. This is the kind of wonderfully messy, endearing art you can create if you’re intensely depressed, but do stuff anyways and fight through it. I started to realize during this, what a gift all my emotions could be if I concentrated them in the right ways. The kettle sound at 1:50 ish is actually me. I can sound like a freakin’ steaming kettle if I want. People also laughed like crazy at ‘And you can’t help it if you’re a jew. Its just the Germans have always been better than you!’. I never really considered my music & energy all that funny until performing this show. It was pivotal, in a way, for me. By 3:40, we get into a re-purposed bit from ‘Liar’, a super-early Queen song. ‘Mama’ becomes ‘Hitler’, etc. Also, a very apt song to reference. Darkest moment people laugh at: ‘If I couldn’t please my father, then I could only make other people die.’ So big and awesome after that!
‘WW1 (Look What They’ve Done)’ is perhaps my favorite, for how it skirts the line between sounding very happy, and also incredibly sad – with the electric, and the military drums. Its actually very powerful to me. ‘Ferdinand’s been shot, but now he’s got a legacy, take me out!’ is a reference to the band. I held up my copy of their debut album so the joke would land. This song actually explains how WW1 happened very accurately, and sets the stage for Germany’s financial situation before Hitler comes along. I remember a teacher laughing really loudly at ‘Not expensive sauerkraut!’. The ‘do do do do do’ bit is based off ‘Gone At Last’ by Paul Simon. I have ‘Guitar Rig II’ to thank for most of the wonderful guitar tones I could get for this. Awesome program with great virtual guitar sounds, but a serious lag on my computer of the time. I include a vocal-less version – like I had to for the live performances as well. This gives you a better sense of all the little things happening in the band track.
‘I Will Rise’, its funny to hear the awkward anticipations in my vocals, because I don’t know when the next part is coming in or not. ‘Its been so … long’. I knew about all these things, but left them in for some reason. I guess because none of these were ever really considered the ‘final product’, or perhaps I was just too angsty and teenagery, and distracted by whatever new idea I had next. I could totally imagine this being performed on stage – the townsfolk gathered around Hitler, just as he’s discovering that he wants to lead the German people. This is a bit fictionalized of course ;). The ending was intended to be a transition between tracks four and five, and a chance for me to change clothes from Hitler to a swinger. Lots of my rock and musical influences come together for this tune :). Mein Kampf is apparently ‘Mein en Kampf’ according to me – just a flub. I love that apparently, you could also get it as a 24-sided vinyl audiobook. Not really, just making stuff up 🙂
‘I’d Rather Swing’ steals a bunch from other artists. It references ‘I Dig Music’ by Canadian heroes of mine, Rheostatics. It was an obscure track of their last studio album, an album I greatly respected. They are truly creative musicians, who, while they lasted, made some incredibly imaginative music. I think their last album is equal to ‘Whale Music’, the album of theirs that is always rated very high on the official ‘Best Canadian Albums’ lists. I’ve met all the Rheostatic members at various times, and had the honor of working with some of them, but that’s another story. I also sneak in Django Reinhardt recordings and homages, sung very inaccurately. However, its neat, because those recordings are of the same decade when Hitler was rising to chancellor, and would incite WW2 – so its a nice moment where this musical is not only historically accurate, but musically accurate. When the drums get good, its my drum instructor playing instead :). All the abrupt musical changes throughout the album are very inspired by Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile’. That opened up the possibilities for me tremendously. And of course, musicals. Love the change at 5:30!
‘Hitler Finale’. This song never really existed in band form before the assignment was due, just in live form and in a acoustic guitar and guide voice only version. I had thought I’d lost the pseudo-studio version until really digging for it. Fits in lots of bits of Queen’s ‘March Of The Black Queen’, and alludes to things throughout the show. Very all over the place, and a fitting ending for what this is.
There’s also a half-butted performance of it that was actually done in 2010 or 2011 for a friend as a birthday gift. I have wonderfully weird friends who want things like that! That disc for that friend included the whole show, video of the live performance, and audio commentaries on each track, plus instrumental versions, the lyric files, and more. I also play through and talk about some other things, and skip some small things from the original as I play it. I cut out a bunch of my stutter-y commentary from this version for you, to spare you it. Lots of Queen references, lots of little bits in this. Hang around to the end of the tune to learn more about other songs and other places I was considering going with this whole musical – making a full-length Rock Opera from it, etc. I still would like to hear ‘Adolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’. I know I made a CD with this whole show on it that I shared with a guy who had made musicals in Toronto – never heard back from him. Just left it at that, and went on to other things. But, I would satiate the musical bug years later with ‘The Beaver Den’ and other things.
‘Not So Hidden Instrumental’ was made as a hidden track, with a wonderful guitar setting in ‘Guitar Rig II’, quite by accident. I actually put the effect on after the fact – so glad I found it! Its hard to imagine it without it! I LOVE THIS! Hardcore Floyd-ing it. Love the little sound effects I added too. This was just made as a bonus for the CD for the guy I was giving the album to so he could get a vague sense of the show. Obviously these are all demos, for a full musical that was never fully fleshed out. But in a way, it feels very complete just like that. I don’t think a song like this would happen without being inspired by the incredible guitar sounds Martin Tielli of (The?) Rheostatics could get from an electric guitar. I love how guitars sound with rain… so incredible. That was inspired by another Rheostatics song, ‘Shack In The Cornfields’. This song also includes wonderful references to ‘Little One, Little Bird’, a song I would properly put together about a month later. I love the moment where it sounds accidentally like a sitar around 5 minutes in. Then it ends with a minute of Hitler speeches to bookend the whole thing in an ominous way.
Demos & Rarities 2006:
Hot off the heels of ‘Hitler!’, most of the tracks early on this playlist (the complete or semi-complete song demos) are from Summer and September that year. ‘Hitler’ taught me a lot about mixing, and I started to upgrade my equipment a bit. I had a tube compressor for a little bit, before it short-circuited, which added a warmth and bigness to the sound. I would use a variety of mics to create a greater difference in the colors of each part. I started to become more lethargic and depressed again around September, and wasn’t as active again after that for a while, unfortunately. Although I created a lot in my teens, I can find myself looking back on these years in regret, about the other things I knew I could have done, the relationships I could have forged, with the sort of craziness, emotional peace & functionality I have throughout my life now.
Other sounds in this collection were made for various films I was making in my film classes – usually strange, basic Flash animations starring Fetuses, or about a guy who was a Vodoo Doll for the entire planet – So, whenever he scratched an itch somewhere on his body, a town in Uganda would get flattened, etc. Some of these old videos are hard to find, or literally may be lost – others, I’ve managed to keep, and they can be found in select parts of The Abravault.
You can attempt to find lyrics from this playlist by digging through the 2006 lyric folder listed further on the page, or by clicking here.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
‘Little One, Little Bird’ is one I worked on a bunch that summer. There’s lots of excellent guitar in this – and at times too much and it gets messy. Like a painter, too curious to stop painting when the piece is done. I also was getting a good studio sound. My sense of melody and harmony was, within a couple years of writing, very strange and very advanced, as a result of my influences diversifying a lot – and also by being naturally interested in artists that were more diverse. Long story, but I know the lead singer of The Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordon, really likes this song, and heard a later demo of mine and loved it, ‘You’re A Wizard Too’. This song is definitely very ‘Blackbird’, ‘Jenny Wren’, and the end of ‘Dear Prudence’, but more Irish, and more harmonically complex. I love that I strip the guitar back a lot throughout a lot of it, and play it very deliberately. The stomp keeps it grounded as well. Its a very balanced demo compared to the chaos I usually create instead. Notice I completely ripoff ‘In My Life’ by The Beatles a couple minutes in for a quick interlude. I only noticed that after the fact :). ‘You made your own road, in a maze that’s set in stone’. This song is really quite brilliant, very Beatles. I hold out a money note way too long, unfortunately. That’s the only thing that I think, anyone would notice on first listen as out-of-place, and maybe some obvious vocal edits. There’s other things that bug me of course, but the passage of time, and knowing that I’m fifteen here gives me more sympathy. I’m really just amazed at some of the sounds that are here, some of the things that happen by accident and are wonderful. The magic of home studios.
The ‘hidden reprise’ is more of a messy improvised hodgepodge. But love the doubled harmonies, and the dexterity I was starting to show on guitar, once you get around 1:10 in it.
‘Give Me Back My Heart’ is a little song, obviously from the same period, same equipment. I was using an Sm57 on my voice, and a nice big condenser on the guitar, as well as a line in through a DI box, for anyone who cares. All of these things would go through a nice warm compressor, along with various weird things inside of Cubase itself. It never occured to me to start working drums and bass into my recordings again for some reason, for ages – or it just didn’t seem possible. This is very much inspired by ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’ by The Beatles. The main points of similarity are just the bounciness, starting the B section with a ‘vi’ chord, and doing a little walkdown from G#m7 to F#m7 in the guitar. Finding cool little things like that were all I often needed in order to inspire new songs. I created the extra guitar parts by recording spontaneous solos, and then selecting the best bits. I never heard the other guitar takes while I recorded – this resulted in some very cool, accidental ways in which the guitars harmonize or work together that I wouldn’t have gotten if I thought closely about how to construct the guitar parts. Nice little tune! The second place ‘hit’ single of the year, as the simpler tunes often are. I played this spontaneously at a show the other night for kicks.
‘At Least We Were Together’ is just a nice, early attempt at improvising songs. I started to do long jams in the studio around this time, where I would try and figure out songs, or make stuff up. Some little bits I exported as separate songs if I really liked them. I’m sure there’s lots of other things too, stuck somewhere in a Cubase project… stuff I’ll probably leave to someone else to uncover. This is just achingly sincere, and really made without any intention of anyone ever hearing it, as a lot of this stuff was – and in a way, that sometimes makes it more appealing. Very simple. Of course, my voice still had a ways to go to become thoroughly tolerable in the studio, but it had moments where it shined – and I clearly was listening very closely to a lot of great singers, and all of those emulations were starting to come together into something all-together natural, original and interesting.
‘Kazoo Rendezvous’ was a fun song I did, alluding to Queen’s ‘Seaside Rendezvous’, but mostly being improvised. I did it as background music for a short film I was making. I ended up just using a couple seconds of it. I had no real concept of harmony then – but its so fun what you can come up with when you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re just discovering. When you sound like you’re discovering, it often makes the best music. I have no idea how I got some of those sounds out of my body. I sound like a bloody Chet Atkin’s guitar solo at 0:25-0:27. People don’t normally sound exactly like guitars. That’s just freakin’ weird! Love screwing around with Pan too. Always have. I remember when I first listened to the Cast Album for ‘Rent’ back in 2003, and first realized what ‘pan’ was – that different instruments can come from different headphones, and move around between the two, and stuff. Just when I thought I couldn’t love recorded music any more, I discovered that!
‘Too Frozen To Be Scared’ was written after a trip to New Jersey. This was my attempt at some weird American political criticism song – taking place on the fourth of July, trying to explain the complexities and irrationality of being patriotic. ‘Salute, salute, what you don’t understand. We’re all too frozen to be scared’. Too numb to be aware, too numb to really care. Stuff people have said a lot before, but it seemed to be all I could think about at the time. Its still something I have a hard time with – Lisa’s monologue in The Simpson’s episode ‘Moaning Lisa’, a very early episode, hits the nail on the head for me though, where she has serious concerns about the state of our species and the human condition, and Homer tries to brush it off by trying to get her to play ‘horsy’. This is very much of a period in time as well – the melodrama that flooded the public consciousness, how it felt to be a North American in those initial years following 9/11. This was recorded live, with some obvious corrections, on the porch beside my area of the house. We send the cables into the studio. It was done that way because we also filmed it with a camera – for that newfangled exciting thing my Dad had just read about in the paper called ‘Youtube’. Man, I remember the early Youtube days vividly. Won’t be an old fogie and reflect on that – but I’m sure I’ll be able to tell my kids about what the world was like before Youtube. That puppy is Pandora’s Box, I tell you what! This song in live video form, and others, were initially up – but I got so bullied from them in the comments, and actually took that stuff seriously then, and I shyed away and took them down. Haven’t been able to find them since. But that could change.
‘The Star Trek Epic Part 1’, another attempt at this tune, with delay added. Sounds like it was recorded not in the studio, because of some of the buzz. This is, I think, the most sad, harrowing version of this song. I intensify the delay at ‘So alone’, to brutal effect. The first part works, and the second part of this ‘epic’ just gets ridiculous, and takes all the sentiment out of it.
‘I Never Even Found Myself’, now that’s an interesting little epic. While maybe a handful of people have heard some of these demos and things before in various indirect ways before they were nestled in The Abravault for good – this is one that nobody ever heard, at all. I had a phase where I brought the mics outside the studio and enjoyed getting more of the ‘room sound’ in the recording. Bad idea! This was very much written in one, free pass, and vocally somewhat improvised. I was inspired by Elvis Costello songs like ‘God’s Comic’ and ‘Satellite’, longer songs that told vivid, unusual stories, with generally simple chords and harmonies. I think its a wonderful, underused form. So, this was one of a few different renditions of that sort of song that I did – this is just one I happened to force out a take of. Some nice lyrics in this, and others that make no sense (‘I’ve been to cults where they make it sound like the worlds a spice rag’). Whatever. I was just making this for me really, riding the wind. That line was inspired by a presentation I went to about ‘Guitar Rig’ in a shopping mall, where they were basically trying to sell you that electronic guitar software. Its awesome software, so no regrets for getting suckered into that purchase. Anyways. I wanted to write a song about some of the classic teen losers out there. One friend in particular became the kernel for this song. I tried to put myself in that typical, slovenly teen mindset for a moment – resist all urge to try, and resist all urges to make any contribution to society. Not a menace, just a lazy teen with no self-respect, no self-esteem, just getting by. Me back then, except I didn’t have as much of the lazy part. I was trying to get into the mindset of small town, zit ridden guys where its all about the loins, and about the success and glory one will only begin to pursue or even think about by the time they get to the end of High School. Think of people in the cartoon ‘Undergrads’ before heading off to college. I like everything about this, but can’t quite put into words why. I like what I was going for. ‘Fear is cute, they say… So I never to find myself….’
‘Better When I Was Gone’ is a sweet, catchy song. Performance not so much, but you’ve come to expect that I hope. You have to be someone who can hear a full song, simply from the skeleton of it, when you listen to these tunes to really appreciate them. I wish I could find the audio file of the whole thing. It must be out there somewhere. Definitely a good idea that I never went all the way with. Its a little too ‘sitcom husband and wife’, like ‘Married… With Children’ in subject matter. I can’t relate to bickering adults, even as an adult. Its simply weakness and sub-child level of childishness, and I don’t want to endorse those things. But despite the subject matter, the lyrics are still very clear, yet interesting. You really feel like you know this bickering couple. Other lyrics not included in the sample that I really liked: ‘Time can never be erased/You’d come in and seal my fate/As an open door, crushed into an empty space’. ‘Some people say that its all in my head/Some people realize that they’ll soon be dead/Glued down to their minimum wage/A family of four and a bird in a cage/I can’t live, no I can’t live this way”. Full lyrics are in the ‘Lyrics, Poems Etc’, along with wayyyyyy too much other stuff.
‘Look What You’ve Done’ is a nice little ‘Will I?’ from RENT homage of sorts. This is the closing song to an animated short I made, which a low quality version of can be found in the 2006 videos section. I completely forget the name of it. Would have been 2007. The echo in the end is so pretty. I had a wonderful digital delay system that I would mess around with for hours, and still never get tired of. The extra guitar at the end is what the credits would roll over.
‘Dylan’ is a gibberish-y Dylan song, like ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, except that one makes way more sense. I thought it was way better than others thought it was. And now I’m with the others :). Its entertaining, but sure its not my best full song from this period. Its like a haphazard blend of lots of things you say if you want to sound like a brilliant wordsmith, without the substance. Referencing ‘Hank Williams’, short lines that seem to say a lot, etc. ‘Break into a stockyard. Find the final tide. Chase away my mysticism. Pay the final price…’ What!? I remember the ‘mention on the obituaries…’ line vividly, as well as ‘I read as all the stars hang down, about the orbit of a plane. It turns out nothing has to leave the ground to smile again. But Hank Williams will understand the portrait of my fate, and how I need you…’. General gibberish, but nice nonetheless from a purely aesthetic perspective.
‘For The Sake Of Your Love’ was going to be a big Meatloaf-sized epic. Nice do-wop chords.
‘Lounge Singing’ is a song I wrote back in late 04, when I was writing like crazy for my ‘Utopian’ project that never came to be. This is me in January 06, in a stairwell at my high school, recording it for my guitar class. I just wanted to impress him with all the complex chords I knew to pump up my grade. This is a pretty fun little song, funny lines, lines I’m proud of. ‘I practiced and perfected my dialect. With my very precious tongue I make the hearts throb with’. I overdubs a little extra acoustic to this one. This was written in a phase where I would just write out titles to songs, based off of whatever the associated numerical track number felt like it should be. So, I think this would have been Utopian track 11, and something about that number, and the titles that came before it, felt, for some abstract reason, like it should be called ‘Lounge Singing’. So, then, I would start writing whatever that song came to be. This was also right after I finished with ‘Snow White & The Group Of Seven’, a big theatrical production I was in at the Elgin Theatre. I was emotionally exhausted after that show, and in a pretty dark place. But that’s more explored in ’05, if you care.
‘Dear Friends’ is a Queen tune that I get the words wrong to a little bit. I’m using a guitar here, just to test it out. I remember really liking its sound. It was falling apart and I lent it to Jimmy Bowskill to get it repaired. Almost ten years later, its almost ready to be returned :). Maybe this was done in 2005, I don’t know.
‘The Crow’ was a pseudo-Johnny Cash style folk song I was working out. This is me playing part of it, filming myself at the same time. I was getting pretty frustrated with myself, as you can tell in the last few seconds. That’s a little insight into how hard I was on myself, to my detriment, behind the scenes. I gave up on recording that tune after that. A rhyme you don’t get to hear in it that I always liked: ‘How do you blacken what is blackest? How did you earn your velvet seat? God better use his tactics. There’s a monster you secrete’.
‘Gods Comic’, my cover of the Costello tune. I had a tendency to listen to things a couple times and then move on, so I’m getting a bunch of the melody wrong here. This definitely isn’t my best from this period, by a long shot. This is what tiredness starts to sound like, when anger and depression starts taking its toll on your soul. Trying to force my way through recording this song – my voice very tight, and barely there. Some neat little overdubs I did for this however, including some of the out of tune ukulele, and definitely the recorder. But mostly it doesn’t work that well.
‘Blue Moon’, a pretty insincere, cold, cover of the classic Rogers & Hart song. Its actually terrible! I had nobody, and no real love in my life what so ever, so this song just feels like I’m phoning it in the whole time. May as well have just been dictating it.
‘Brighton Rock Bit’ – I like my falsetto, and here I am apologizing for it. What!? I mean, its all pretty bad, but the falsetto’s pretty close to Freddie’s, really. When I dabble in Brian May’s guitar solo at the end, that’s where it really sucks. This was just spontaneous, in front of the camera, on the porch, in the summer. There’s the clip of it available in the videos section that I managed to find.
‘Melody Of Quantities’ were just some guitar improvs done in the studio with my new DI box, why the guitar generally sounds more brittle. But, I’ve definitely heard worse DI systems than the one I was using, that’s for sure. Some of this is very messy, just me as a guitarist messing around, and it happening to be recorded, and doing a second answer-back take to whatever first take I had done.
‘Moon Shadow and More’… is just me messing with delay, for the sake of it. Its disorienting, but fun. Not planning anyone to hear it. I would do things like this for hours at a time, playing through different songs just to keep practicing and keep my mind off my worries. Recording myself improvising in the studio is a great way to make stuff up and see what happens. I’m improvising stuff, and playing other things I knew. I think the delay was added after the fact. I had built up an amazing instinct where I could fake my way through virtually any song, whether I had ever tried playing it before or not. I just had built up such an awareness of chord and harmonic structure.
‘Who Needs You’ a Queen cover, done with my newfangled DI box. Very early in the year. Way too many cuts and edits in this thing. It was more just a way for me to get better at guitar and dick around, in my directionless teenage sorrow.
‘Funeral For A Friend…’ is the Elton John song that inspired me to get into music making. I was trying to refuel myself, remind myself why I started making music in the first place, and spontaneously recorded myself doing a super messy, weak cover of this song as a result. Jan 06 for sure.
The ‘Thank God Its Christmas’ and ‘Tambourine Man’ were done around the same time as the ‘Lounge Singing’ one, just in a stairwell at the school, with some iffy overdubs at times. Just for the guitar teacher, had to be done that day during the class itself. Man, if I could get into my minidisks, there would be a ton of interesting stuff there – but I’d waste two months of my life just looking through those! From one year!
And then the last things are just quick little audio segments and keyboard stuff I found from some of the Flash animation videos I was making around the time. There’s a whole other batch, and arguably a more interesting batch, in the 09-07 section. Some of these sounds are also from a Power Point presentation I put together for one class, where I created a premise for a TV show. I had some sound bytes to go along with it, just a couple included here because… you have to draw the line somewhere.
Demos & Rarities, 2005
Definitely a bit of a lost, dark year. Was still making music – but as you’ll read in the 04 summaries, something happened where I was emotionally exhausted, and having a weird breakdown at the end of 2004. It was like everything I made during this year was stagnant – I stopped really growing. I was becoming self-aware for the first time, and having to face that how I had been operating wasn’t sustainable – ultimately, all this created a deep depression in me that became a horrible web for a long time, one that I resisted getting any help with – and one where conventional support never really helped. By the start of this year, it was really seeping in. Bunch of music here for school projects, and various weird songs I wrote – a lot of it was for another little concept album I was imagining just to keep my mind occupied. All the songs were going to be very short and simple – like twisted nursery rhymes. No recordings of those, but the lyrics and chords are in the ‘Lyrics, Poems etc’ for a bunch of them – as well as a ton of other tunes. Maybe I’ll record little demos of them in the future to give a sense. I also worked obsessively at learning songs, and making band tracks for a show I played that summer – three days of six hours of music a day by me, mostly without repeating myself the entire time. I went needlessly excessive with it – it was something to do. It was for the The Bridgenorth Causeway Festival.
Then, later in the year, I landed a supporting role in an Elgin Theatre musical in Toronto. Suddenly, I was working with all these big Canadian Idol alumnae every day, as well as Alan Frew of Glass Tiger, Sean Cullen – And featured in a musical where I was performing for about 1,500 people a night. And I was ravaged with guilt from it – I basically had trained myself to jinx myself ever so slightly, so to me, nothing I did ever felt quite like it was ‘on’. I was trying to sabotage some grand ‘destiny’ I expected of myself. If you ever look at pictures of me from around the end of this year, I look very harrowed and pale, with lots of forced smiles. It was a big Christmas pantomime musical – tons of choreography, singing. There was a medley where we changed costumes four times in seven minutes! It was crazy. My featured moment was when I got to sing ‘I Want You Back’, completely decked out like a little MJ (afro included).
Anyways, lets dig into some of the demos from this somewhat stagnant year. It has some moments.
You can attempt to find lyrics from this playlist by digging through the 2005 lyric folder listed further on the page, or by clicking here.
Tracks Reflections, March/April/May 2015:
‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ is a Gershwin tune. This sets the precedent for the start of this playlist: Lots of standards and crooner sorts of things. I sang certain standards a bunch, worked on them a lot with my vocal coach, and entered various singing contests singing them. The difference was, I also mixed my own bandtracks and vocal versions. Granted, its still crappy MIDI-sounding backing tracks, but its a step up from what Karaoke tracks sound like. ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ is a brilliant tune that, for my age, I do an okay job of. The ending notes are pretty cool.
‘Kissing A Fool’, like the one you’ll find in the 2004 playlist, just with new vocals that I did in my studio, versus the studio the vocals were initially done in. I was really just testing the difference in that studio versus mine – seeing if I could emulate the same quality as a crazy expensive, fancy studio. I’m also very in my head during this – I’m struggling with my fading emotions, with the numbness music is suddenly giving me, where it used to give me joy. And I’m being a stubborn dummy and making music still, instead of giving myself a good long rest. I was being too afraid to stop.
‘I Get A Kick’, I remember working very hard to make it sound really great in the car stereo speakers. Went a little too hardcore with the vocal compression here, but I was learning. There’s another version of ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’, where I perform the opening bridge entirely on guitar in my backing track, and I remember that getting me lots of brownie points in the judges eyes. That was at the CNE ‘Rising Star’ contest in Toronto. I did standards at a lot of those American Idol singing contest ripoff contests that cropped up around the countrysides. It would take till University stop trying to sound like a Sinatra ripoff when I sang standards 😉
‘Who Killed The Crooner?’ is a little fake radio drama I made. I think three parts were written for it and recorded, but only one was really edited together. I think this was for a drama class. I made it very hard and awkward for myself to do this, recording the dialogue lines in a classroom at lunchtime instead of at my studio at night, and recording it with my little minidisk recorder. I used working on this at lunch as an excuse to avoid a girl who liked me – I wish I had just spent time with her instead. Would have been way better for me, but I just wanted to shut myself away from everyone, and delve into my work, and didn’t have the tools necessary to really stop myself and do the right thing. I was in Grade 9 for cripes sake. Some of this was recorded with a vintage mic I borrowed for a few months from Jimmy Bowskill. More on him once we get to the ‘Industry’ song I made with him. This whole thing is really unfunny, but does a good job of sounding ‘live’. I think I took some of the audience sounds blended into ‘Benny & The Jets’ for this. You really feel like you’re in the far wings of a massive concert hall.
‘I Want You Back’, the Jackson 5 tune, is sung here as part of the bootlegged full ‘Snow White’ show I was in at the Elgin. We had a massive medley at one point, where we were changing outfits every minute, about five different times. I remember we sang ‘Perfidia’ from ‘Forever Plaid!’, ‘I Get Around’ by the Beach Boys, ‘Dancin Machine’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ (also by the J5), some others… and this was my moment to shine in the show. This is a pretty bad version compared to other performances – but its the one that got bootlegged I guess. I sound very tense and like I’m not enjoying myself at all – I was struggling with perpetually jinxing myself to the point where it was a seemingly unstoppable muscle, so no wonder. There were better versions done for other crowds, where I do the melody closer to the original, and its not so ironed out.
‘Why Should I Be Dreaming?’ is a little pseudo-standard I wrote. Very old fashioned. One of my few straight-ahead original songs I bothered to record that year. The verse structure is strange and has a lot of key changes. One thing I’d noticed was you could go into strange places in a ‘pop’ song during the verses, if you found a way back to a very straight ahead, predictable place in the chorus, and often get away with it. In fact, that contrast often adds depth to the song in question. I think I started writing this on a mini-guitar that was tuned up a fifth. It forced me to make something cute, and sort of George Formby-y. Jimmy Bowskill really liked this song.
‘Industry’. Now we get to my little duet for class I did with Jimmy. So I’ll explain who he is now if you don’t know. He’s an amazing musician. When I first met him – we were fresh and new to PCVS. I thought I would be the star musician at the school – but the moment he started playing, I realized I had nothing on him. He’d been nominated for a Juno a couple months prior for his second studio album, he’d been on national talk shows performing – a couple years later, he toured around with ZZ freakin Top. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – he was a true child prodigy. Now, he’s just an amazing player who makes awesome music. He sounded, even at the age of 13, like a blues great. A similar tone to, say – Jeff Healey. He played guitar and sang like nobody’s business. So, it was actually a pretty intimidating experience when he came over to my little setup to record a song for our Geography class. I forget how ‘Industry’ related to Geography, but either way, we got a good grade. I basically wrote the lyrics and the music – he just did the organ solo, and the guitar solo, and most of the playing. He made the song sound good, whereas it would have sounded far less accessible if it was just me. A total consummate performer. I felt totally inadequate in comparison to him, and my voice had nothing on his. Of course I was a bit jealous, anyone would be who is competitive as an artist – but we also came from very different creative worlds, so its a strange comparison. He’s by far a better player – but I’m certainly a more diverse & active songwriter, from what I know. Now as a man, I’m just happy for him. I think I tried re-doing my vocals at one point in the bathroom to this song, to get those acoustics, and try something different. But every time I recorded a song, I would just get so bogged down in my own negative thoughts that I would stop fairly quickly. We did other songs that I wrote as part of the presentation for the Geography class – silly little short songs, and a ridiculous script I wrote that we had to act out for the class. I wrote ridiculous scripts and songs for any school assignment I could get away with. I also wrote a song called ‘Western Cordillera’, about a particular mountain range for that class, that I remember liking a bit.
A little after the fact, I also re-did my shit vocals and sang Jimmy’s parts too, while using the same backing. Trying less hard here, to its benefit.
‘John Mayer…’ was from a contest he posted online, where he just put up lyrics and invited people to write a song around them. If someone made something he liked, it might have ended up on Continuum. Obviously I entered, but my entry is a mess and not that accessible, or easy to use in any capacity. The lyrics were strange to write to when taken at face value – lots of three line stanzas, things like that. I don’t think he ever used any of people’s suggestions, but I do think he listened to all the submissions.
‘Andrews Phunk Beat’ is from a friend of mine, playing all the instruments. All I did was show him my studio and produce this for him. We did another song which is definitely NSFW, and I probably shouldn’t share it! It took a lot more work, and was like a hardcore punk song. I played some organ on it. It would be nice to be able to – maybe I’ll ask him if I can upload it. But there’s bigger fish to fry in life!
‘Beatles In A Hallway’ is some of the sounds I made with some friends for another school drama project. We had to work pre-recorded sound somehow into the show. It was a story of a girl trying to sneak in to meet The Beatles. This is pretty fun. ‘Looking Forward To The USSR!’ ‘Yes, that’s a much better title!’. Other things were done for this project, but, whatever. This is what you get.
‘The Best Card In The Game’ is a song from later in 05, one that I tried to share with Alan Frew of Glass Tiger while I was doing ‘Snow White & The Group Of Seven’. He eventually listened to this and ‘The Star Trek Epic’. Poor bugger! He saw potential, but knew I had a long ways to go. This song was written with the metaphor of songs being cards in a deck. ‘You lost your ‘Black Bird’ to the Ace Of Spades/’No Woman No Cry’ to the ‘Modest Mouse’ Parade.’, etc. I fleshed out the idea of a battle card game based on musicians and presented it in a marketing class I took the following year. This song is just a pseudo-pop song, one I thought had more potential than it did. I remember hacking into The Sims, so that when I played it, this would play through whatever Jukebox a Sim used if they went to certain stations.
‘Start Trek Epic Parts 1 and 2’ – This is the early version of this epic. Go to 2006, and hear a way nicer version of part 1. Part 2 is just epic and silly, and bad. ‘Starry-eyed Shatner, could you be the one who could be the one?’ I guess its a song that’s about nerds going to extremes to make the enterprise and go on a space adventure – and then it becomes some epic Rush-style song. Its just too much nerd to take.
‘Bluest Of The Blue Blue Moons’ was an original that starts like the old classic, but then goes in a different direction. The guitar playing is weaker than I was capable of by then – I was just so weirded out and depressed everything was weaker. Its really just me trying to get myself out of the dumps. I love where it goes in the last two minutes. It just takes a total left turn, becomes a bossa nova of sorts. I was imagining it with very weird, thick Imogen Heap-style harmonies as well. I remember playing this song for a big basement full of people, and them being very nice about it and impressed – but me feeling inadequate because it was such an odd song.
‘So That Is Art’ is a little dictation of a song I had to do for an ambitious arts event that PCVS, my high school, put on every year. This was a song that was just a tribute to Art itself. I had to perform it in a sketch, I think. The lyrics sound like a total mess, so hard to hear. ‘So that is art. Its what I’m dreaming of, the brush strokes of love’. Very awkward lyrics that were not made to be sung – something you learn quickly not to do when you’re actually trying to write music. No idea what’s going on here. It was better in the performance. Recorded with my Mini-Disk recorder – you can tell because it buzzes to life from time to time. It had awesome sound, but also made weird noises.
‘The Courtship…’ is of a friend of mine. I made him sing one note, and promised him I wouldn’t do anything with it. I did something with it 🙂
‘The Lottery’ was for another school project. It was a puppet show version of ‘The Lottery’, the freaky short story about people having a ritual of stoning someone to death. So naturally, its pretty disturbing. I added in laughs from my Dad, trying to be a kid, from ‘Off On An Adventure’ to make it extra creepy. My friend, JJ, did a great scream. It sounds like one of those old Halloween scream mats.
‘Misfire…’ is from a really bad short flash video I made that year. This was my first of a few flash movies made over the years. I just needed background music, so did a bit of this Queen song to satiate that urge.
‘Taylor Excerpt’ is from a friend who came over to record at my spot. He needed some demos done of his acoustic songs. I also tried writing a bit to one of his songs, and this is it.
‘Stand By Me’ is actually a solid take on it, very like the Lennon version. I think I had just watched the movie of the same name, and it moved me, so I covered it.
‘Night Feels My Song’ is the Bendouin Soundclash song, and then the rest is probably my first case of full out song improvising in the studio. Trying to get myself optimistic, trying to get through another lonely summer night. There’s hours of me just spontaneously jamming things out that are recorded in that studio – and hours more of stuff I can’t be bothered to go through, that may actually be pretty good, on various MiniDisks.
The next few tracks are all live excerpts from the Bridgenorth Causeway Festival. This was a concert that I ended up being the headliner for somehow, that summer. I was basically the only performer. I must have played for five hours each of the three days of the festival – with tons of carefully made band tracks, rarely repeating myself. I’m sure I did sixty unique songs for that show, spread out over all of those days. I remember it all ending with a version of ‘A Day In The Life’ that was very well received. I really went all-out with it, simply because it was something to put my energy into. I needed things to keep my mind off myself desperately. So, the things here are just a sampling of all the backing tracks and live performances that really exist of the show. We had to do all our own sound setup and everything as well. I basically learned from that how to set up an entire live show for a group of 100 if I had to.
I certainly refined a lot of covers and got better at playing preparing for this whole thing. I realized during this prep process that I knew, probably, 300 songs, give or take. Lots without knowing the chords, but I could easily fake my way through the chords live. I remember using clips from the actual songs at times to make the bandtracks. For example, when I covered ‘Obladi Oblada’, I used the actual Santa-style laughter that’s in the song at one point, but had to pitch it to the key I was playing the song in. For ‘Somebody To Love’, I looped the audience’s claps from George Michael’s version of the song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. With weird things like that, I certainly proved how OCD I could be.
Some of these are somewhere between entertaining and uncomfortable. I made a really bad bandtrack for ‘Dragon Attack’ by Queen, complete with out of tune electric guitar. I also made a weird hybrid of things into a Disco bandtrack for ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, the Santa Esmeralda version. I just copy and pasted different MIDI disco tunes into it – and it sounds like a very strange, numbing mess. But its creepy in a way that appeals to me a little bit – with the dog barks during the ‘Le Freak’ keyboard lines, etc.
A cool one is one I made for ‘Claire’, my song from the year prior. I made a little bonus bit to it, with electric guitar, reverse cymbals, and a mock kick drum.
One song in here is an original that you won’t find anywhere else, ‘I Met My Destiny’, a song I actually wrote late in Grade 8, and stumbled upon again and decided to play. I would perform ‘If You Were There’, in this Wham! style of the song, for my audition to land my role in ‘Snow White & The Group Of Seven’ along with a bunch of star talent.
‘La la la’ is from ‘Crocodile Rock’. That was a song I was known for in some areas. I got up in the cafeteria on the second day of school and sang it to everyone there. I was trying to establish my cred or how ‘special’ I was or something. Really, I just became the kid to all the jocs who sang Crocodile Rock, and became everyone’s jester for a bit as a result. I have this little sound, because I would use it as a hidden track on various compilations I made, just to freak people out.
‘O Canada’ is one of a few different self-indulgent versions of the national anthem I did to be played over the announcements at PCVS. They would play them on and off throughout the years, much to my embarrassment, and despite me begging them not to since Grade 10. Jimmy Bowskill made versions too – his were wayyyy better. I remember a reggae version sounding great.
‘French Radio Ad Fini’ was made with some friends, all the sound really by me of course. For French class. I think we had to make a radio trailer for a movie, in French. Who knows if we’re saying anything correctly. Let me know if it makes sense, if you speak Francais. If you listen closely, I think there’s sounds from the South Park episode where Barbara Streisand attacks the town. I went to a private French tutor for a little bit in late 2004 – nice memories of that. She taught me a nice French chanson: ‘Dimanche a soir un Chautuge… Le pied pedant e bodique…’. Surely I’m spelling some words wrong.
There’s also the digital band track I mixed of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. ‘French Crime Sounds’ blends sounds from ‘One Vision’ by Queen, and police sirens, to get that high octane, dramatic sound.
‘Watching The TV’ is a bandtrack for a little, silly, unnecessary song I did with Jimmy for that aforementioned Geography assigment. The lyrics went: ‘Watchin the TV. Watchin the TV. Watchin the TV sounds good!’
I also have band tracks here for other songs from that same assignment, ‘Hawaii’, and ‘That’s The Industries’. Just cos. We would have sung these in class along with these dumb tracks.
‘Acoustic Guitar Ad’ is background music for a radio ad for my Dad’s business. We did a series of them, actually in the studio. I think just by doing that, the investment of the studio got paid off in new business.
Demos & Rarities, 2004:
This was the year where everything changed for me creatively. I was in a violent, saturated torrent of creative inspiration – it was ragingly intense, in part from teenage hormones kicking in. This year starts with my last semester at my private school, before going to an arts high school. I had also skipped a grade at the private school, so I was barely thirteen by the time high school began. During that summer, music for me was so intense that it was, honestly, more powerful than any drug has ever been for me. Not that I’ve done much. I had a little mushroom tea one time years later, and while that was terrifying – it didn’t alter me like The White Album did in summer 2004. I vividly remember my mind completely transforming on a road trip with my Dad – listening to endless CD’s nonstop on my record player. I’d listen to Meatloaf, then I’d listen to Don McLean, then Sinatra… and often lots of music that wasn’t their best, but equally intreresting. Anything went. I had won a $500 dollar HMV shopping spree a few months before from a singing contest (‘Oshawa Idol’), and it proved valuable to my education.
However, the CD that pushed me over the edge, the one that was just too much insanity for my noggin’… was ‘The White Album’. The White Album robbed me of my final bit of innocence. When I started to listen to that, it just seemed like there were truly no rules anymore in music. Songs would end abruptly, could be any length imaginable – heck, there was even a nine minute noise track by John & Yoko. Many songs feel like they were made while they were running on empty, in some pseudo-spiritual, messy, drug filled haze. Little sounds would appear out of nowhere – things were deliberately there to challenge your patience as a listener. Pan was changing all over the place! And I loved it – but I’m not kidding when I say I was destroyed after listening to that a few times. I started to hear voices after listening to it for a bit, and I think it was sort of the peak of the mountain of my youth – there was nowhere to go but down. It felt like I had seen and heard it all now, and my brain was an utter wreck.
And, then, after that, my Dad graciously helped with the construction of a little home studio for me. A little cork-walled box for me to make music in. We dropped a couple thousand into it – it certainly wasn’t a pro studio, but it was perfect for someone who wanted to make noise perpetually, and it served me a long time. Having the overwhelming possibilities of that studio, adjusting to the immense world of Highschool where I was no longer a big fish in a small pond, along with getting way too obsessed with fame after reading a Randy Jackson book, starring as a blind man in a highschool production of ‘Butterflies Are Free’ with copious dialogue to learn, while frantically visualizing my ‘Smile’ (although I wouldn’t hear Smile until 2006), a double-album I was going to call ‘Utopian’… I was completely emotionally and physically drained at the end of 2004, but I was scared to stop. This was me discovering what its like to grind yourself down to nothing. Now, I could definitely take on that degree of a workload all at once, because I make sure I’m empowered about it all – but then, I wasn’t admitting to myself that the passion for me was dying for music. I had saturated myself in the endless possibilities of art, and I was truly having some Brian-Wilson-style nervous breakdown under my own pressure and self-absorption.
I think the nail in the coffin for me, in terms of guilt that year – was when I noticed a cat of ours, Alison, hadn’t been around lately. I asked my Mom, who explained she’d been missing for two weeks. She didn’t want to distract me from my work with the news. I was so self-absorbed that the things I loved could be gone forever, and I didn’t even notice.
A lot of these demos were made in part for the aforementioned ‘Utopian’ project, but some also just as songs. I was working hard to create a really great demo to drop off at a man’s house who lived in Peterborough. He had recently co-written a number one hit, and I saw it as my lead to the top to get my demo in his hands.
Obviously, I wasn’t ready. However, this year is definitely more fruitful than the following year, when my new-found depression and exhaustion halted me profoundly.
You can attempt to find lyrics from this playlist by digging through the 2004 lyric folder listed further on the page, or by clicking here.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
‘Seasides’, was the last song of the year. This was my most clear attempt at making something to appeal to the songwriter in town who had a number one hit – I wanted to blow his socks off. Why I thought a song this long would appeal to a hit writer, I don’t know. More false romance that meant nothing to me. If anything, it just made me feel more lonely. I remember being called out by someone at school for the lazy rhyme of ‘what a night, full of spice’.
‘Berries Bore’ is more ‘mediocre imagination’ from the ‘Utopian’ concept. I was partly inspired by a chapter in the Lord Of The Rings where they are in the woods and meet a lumberjack – and by the Hawksley Workman song ‘Little Tragedies’. None of this felt right to me, so it was perfect for my odd self-destructive creative state.
‘Everybody’ was recorded earlier in my studio discoveries, and was definitely meant for ‘Utopian’. There’s weird clicks and pops from plugins. Some of these songs you will notice a high pitched hum throughout. That’s the result of an audio plugin that was just there to boost the volume. I wasn’t recording things loudly enough and doing way too much adjusting in post. This is the ‘lets come together!’ anthem. I think we entered this in a contest where your song gets reviewed, and this was given a 76%, purely on songwriting merit. He didn’t understand my need for the big instrumental in the middle. Neither do I 🙂
‘Claire’ was ‘inspired’ by an RPG called ‘Dark Cloud 2’. I was reading the guidebook on it, and there was a mission that gets solved by showing a girl the ‘flower in the sun’. So, that’s how this was made. The idea was just straight ahead, Disney-style, total white-bread Arian love. Somehow that made me feel weird and off in a cozy way, so again, my masochistic mind of the time wanted to make that song. This is more the straight-ahead ‘lets make a hit!’ sorta song. I know the ‘hit maker’ in town, wanted to make sure this was forwarded to a label. Better without the weird bass line I tried too.
‘Off On An Adventure’ would have been a song from ‘Utopian’. Very ‘White Albumy’ ending, ending with weird laughing and stuff from me and my Dad. I also stole the jingle for the board game ‘Trouble’ at the end too. I will try to explain one particularly weird about my approach to songwriting back then: I was often obsessed with the idea of making music that felt wrong to me, like a masochistic joy. I wanted to make music that, if I was on the right track, I would never make. Not even that I wanted to – it just seemed like I couldn’t help it. My chemistry was in some weird flux and I wasn’t in control anymore. It was the idea of deliberately not making your best art, as a way to add a meta layer of interest on top of the recording. I liked the dark subtext a song had when at times, you could tell that the artist simply wasn’t trying their best, or being deliberately medicore, deliberately dulling their imaginations. ‘Utopian’ would have been an imaginative journey through someone who had dulled their imaginations into some Disney binaries: ‘Pirates!’ ‘Gold!’ ‘Giant Spiders!’ ‘Circuses!’. Nothing we haven’t already seen before. I suppose I was pining for the years before puberty – for a bland childhood I never had. I remember sitting down and watching a ton of movies during the Christmas break that year, and feeling all these vivid memories from them. But it was strange – I was also simultaneously sucking the life from those memories at the same time – I never got the same fuzzy feelings watching those movies ever again – I was convinced ‘I couldn’t experience anything properly anymore’, so therefore, I started going numb when experiencing art, etc. I sang this song in 2006 with a band, at a big talent contest somehow. Maybe I got it through Sonicbids? I shared the stage with ‘Dala’ in their early days for that show, as well as the guy whose famous because he fit through a tennis racquet on Letterman.
‘Jitterbug Rock’ was my first attempt at recording electric guitar in that studio. I liked the contradiction of the ‘Jitterbug’ dance of the early 20th century being blended with rock. Definitely more of that ‘mediocre imagination’ charm. Inspiredly un-inspired. That’s probably the best way to summarize what I was trying to go for. Really like the doubled electric guitar sound. Very big and fat.
‘Love Is True’ is a song version with lyrics of an idea I had for an instrumental earlier that year called ‘Baguette’. It would get re-imagined a bit in 2009. This song is an attempt at a ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ sort of farewell to love song, but of course its more Bossa nova and romantic than that song. More straight ahead song – very uninspired, but not intended for ‘Utopian’. Something I wouldn’t have written if I didn’t enjoy George Michael so much.
‘The Killer Intro’, was the intro to The Killer, and a totally unnecessary one. Just a cool chance to start getting more used to recording electric guitar, and trying to get the best sound from it I could. The mixing and quality sounded very nice in a car stereo. I was proud of myself for that. I would do re-mixes of songs all the time to try out in different systems, but I would never re-record the actual performances, where most of the problems really were.
‘The Killer’ was the last or second-last song made that year, written on a bus ride on some field trip. I wanted to really make something menacing and creepy. Not intended for ‘Utopian’, just to try and sound like a blues artist, since I felt this enormous pressure to ‘like’ that style, for ‘real musicians like blues’, some macho thing. But I like how I mess with the blues form a ton, there’s a key change in the middle of each verse that then makes its way back down to ground zero again. I did the right thing, making something, structurally at least, more interesting. I’m getting more comfortable with getting a better sound out of my studio by this point, though of course I never really learned how to make it incredible, nor did I put enough time into making my performances really good, since I was bursting with too many ideas.
‘The Top Stuff Part 1’ – Now this is a very very odd epic. I think this was the first song I shared with anyone from my studio, and it would have been recorded during the first week of high school. I used slide guitar, inspired by my new pal Jimmy Bowskill. This is a giant top hat & cane standard that keeps modulating and going all over the place. Not sure what I was thinking. This was also not intended for ‘Utopian’, as that idea hadn’t quite simmered in yet. Notice how sophisticated my sense of chords are already after a year of guitar… mostly from a chord book with the complete works of The Beatles in it. I played so obsessively that I was getting very far along at a very fast rate. My sense of time was still lacking, but I could change to chords very easily. I think this song was me trying to pick myself back up again after starting to have all my weirdness start setting in. My head was suddenly very noisy, and I couldn’t be present like normal. This scared the crap out of me, because it seemed like I couldn’t control it. This song wasn’t enough to stop the DEMONS! My Dad explained to me afterward that there’s no such thing as ‘Prussians’ pronounced the way I was pronouncing it. But the rhyme was already in stone – and I didn’t understand the idea of revisions yet. My guitar solos are sooo bad! One of them, the distortion plugin cacks out near the end even.
‘Part 2’ is meant to flow right in from Part 1, so imagine that transition being seamless :). This one is shorter, but takes the song into some really weird places. I think the first half of this was inspired by some stuff off of ‘The Wall’, just the idea of mellow repetitive stuff that you never return to. It sort of has the same charm as say ‘Golden Slumbers’ as well. The repetitive, slow break that nobody minds after a lot of insanity. Then, I return to the crazy. My imagination felt like it was at the edge of the universe, like I could see anything. It was very weird and magical and scary! That’s why you get lyrics like ‘Through the twists of the wonder, to the edge of the brain. To the gods of thunder, to their last hideway… Out a million minds, through a million black holes. By the spark of the dark end, to the story that’s told.’ Semi-gibberish that felt like it described that experience all the same. Harmonically, I’m doing plenty of the same things now that these early songs do. I just use it better, and perform way better. But its neat to consider that a lot of my tool belt is here already.
‘Its Only You Now’ was recorded at the very end of that summer. This is a segment of an 9 minute Meatloaf style epic, I’ll see if I can find the whole thing. This is part of the end of the song that never ends, like in ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’. I’m even trying to sound like Meatloaf here.
‘Santa Claus’ – now this is a bandtrack I mixed of a MIDI file based on an arrangement on a Disney CD. I had agreed for a brief period to be a performer in a rigorous mall Christmas performance. I was already taking on too much, and adding this felt crazy, but I was considering it for a while. Hence, I mixed some MIDI band-tracks for it, including this. Notice how much better virtual instruments can sound than the real thing, when the real thing is done really badly. I remember that Disney CD of Christmas music, in my state back then, being so mediocre and happy and weird, that it rubbed me in all the right wrong ways. That masochistic sentimentality I was indulging in, this was definitely not good for it…
‘Hidden Noise Song’ is interesting. This was an early attempt at editing in Cubase, and me using various sources of MiniDisk audio to make a wash of noise. It also uses reversed Beatles audio, etc. I had learned about noise artists earlier that summer at a radio camp, and loved the idea of it. I don’t think I’d heard ‘Revolution 9’ yet. The sources are also from ‘Oshawa Idol’ a few months before, which I won. It gets hilarious and torturous once you start hearing ‘Sk8ter Boi’ and ‘Crazy In Love’ covered by little girls at that contest. I love hearing the hoakey announcer, begrudgingly going through introducing everyone. I did ‘I Want To Be With You’ by Enrique Iglaseas for that concert, since the options were pretty slim. They cut me off before I could sing the chorus, but I still won a 500 dollar shopping spree from that mall. It all went towards buying albums. A lot of this was random editing.
‘Kissing A Fool’ is a George Michael hit that I would sing at a lot of those small-town ‘American Idol’ ripoff contests. It was sort of my signature song for a bit. This is the first ‘recorded’ version of it, done around March 04 at the studio where ‘My Friend Today’ was also recorded. I was so in awe of studios now, and the idea of making music in them, since I was obsessed with stardom and convinced I would get it. There’s acoustic guitar songs from the same session. I remember excitedly listening to it over the car stereo after it was recorded. That night, after the studio session, I was competing in a spelling bee. I was supposed to be our star speller, but I messed up on the first word, ‘Aboriginal’, because my mind was still on my day in the studio. I just didn’t care about anything else. Then, literally, a kid in a bee costume sat down to ‘comfort me’ after losing. It was hilarious.
‘In Their Apartment Complex’ – This is a song I would have also recorded in March or so, in the same session as ‘Kissing A Fool’. I was proud of this song – it was very much like an Elton John filler song. Its actually terrible and hilarious unintentionally. This would almost work on Tim & Eric. ‘He still cheers as the puck goes in, though there’s a chance that me may die. And she, secretly, will love him for all of time’. The ‘bag of mirrors’ metaphor doesn’t quite make sense, or the big ending. I forgot there was ukulele on this.
‘A Simple Melody For You’ was me trying to write ‘Your Song’ or ‘Just The Way You Are’, with a chorus like the bridge in ‘Tiny Dancer’. So, its all me trying to be what I figured a serious singer/songwriter was, without having any of that experience, or living enough life yet. I prided myself on complexity at an early age, and did a pretty tasteful job of it here, not going too far. Considering how far off the rails a song like this could go (I could make anything a 12 minute epic), its at least in the ballpark of a pop song shape-wise. However, there’s still nothing ‘simple’ about this.
‘Dreamers Ball’, a Queen cover from the same session, with the chords substantially wrong!
‘Raisins’ is an utterly ridiculous original. Based off the South Park episode ‘Raisins’, where a Hooters-style restaurant opens up in town for the boys.
‘Hawaii Meets Japan’ is from a little video for school that my brother and I made, still at the private school. Would have been grade 7 perhaps – maybe 2003. Whatever. We were pretending to be karate masters and needed ‘oriental’ music. We loved the movie ‘Kung Pow: Enter The Fist’, so it was very much a parody of that as well. I like this in a messy kind of way. It doesn’t try to do much, and that’s a nice change from everything else.
All the other stuff is from very early 2004. ‘Dodger’ was part of an album I had written in one day that never really got properly recorded. ‘Bass’, like the fish, is apparently in the band. It was the kind of album where I wrote the titles first, then quickly wrote the corresponding songs. There were other songs like ‘Forget Your Puberty’ and ‘Swan Song’ that would have been on the same thing. ‘Depression’ would have been written before I really experienced what that was really like.
‘American Idol’ is a different dictation that I thought would be a big hit back in the day. I was obviously wrong. Its a sarcastic take on the show.
Well, that’s a bunch of what I can find right now.
A Company Of Fools – January 2004
This short little collection was a school project from near the end of Grade 8. I was still in private school – being a little megalomaniac kid, an ego the size of Russia. It was a CD my friend and I made of music that would coincide with a book we read (Of the same name), about performers during the black plague in Europe, going around keeping people entertained and distracted from the inevitable, and soon, painful death they would experience. Sort of an odd, morbid children’s book, but I remember really liking it because it dealt with performance.
My idea of humor was making ’99 Red Balloons’ into ’99 Plague Victims’. I would suspect that docked me a couple marks, since it really wasn’t sensitive or relevant to the source material :). Its a night and day difference – me here, compared to me, even later in the year, and especially two years later. I totally change this year. More reflections after the playlist and this image of the jacket of the CD:
Click on the image for a larger view.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
’99 Plague Victims’ is obviously ’99 Red Balloons’, re-purposed, to tasteless, humorous effect. We also performed some of the songs from this album school project live for the class. This whole little CD was basically a bonus thing we did for a book report one day. I remember my arms were burning from doing my unconvincing punk guitar strumming during the live performance. That’s how new I was to guitar! Two minutes of fast strumming was too much! The awkward change-over to keyboard is hilarious.
‘Drunken Bishop’ I remember fondly, because I was very proud of it. One I wrote. It was the best I had sounded up to that point in time in my opinion, basically playing guitar & writing for about a year. We recorded this on a pathway that overlooked a giant, open armory. Basically, this private school I went to was a re-purposed armory. Gorgeous old building. So, that reverb you can sort of get is all real. Its not as pronounced since we’re so close to the mic. This song was written, I think, based off of a song they would sing in the book. They would sing songs about Drunken Bishops to entertain people. Of course, all I really had to go off of was a title. The rest is made up, and of course they had no idea what STD’s were then. Hilariously tasteless tune for a 12 year old. There’s this magical moment about fifteen seconds in where the guitar locks with the bongo drum. I remember that exciting me to no end. It was the first time I sounded good while making music with someone else.
‘I Hate Everything About France’ is the Three Day’s Grace song that was big around the time, ‘I Hate Everything About You’, re-purposed. They were especially big in our area, because the began as local boys. Why France? Why not? Also, it was a place that took the black plague very badly, so its easy to hate everything about it.
‘Caro Mio Baen’ was a tune I had learned from my vocal coach. While written hundreds of years after the most infamous black plague (the years the book is set in), this still reflects the Italian that would be rife in Church singing of the time. So I stuck it on. I remember having to be on the other side of the room because I didn’t know how to turn down the volume of the mic enough, or because I enjoyed the ego boost of ‘I have such a big voice I have to be on the other end of the room so it doesn’t clip’. Something like that. Little Taylor had much to learn.
‘Dance Little Dog’ was a little bit of lyrics that were written in the actual book, now put to half-assed melody.
And the hidden track… is just me being weird… its probably something I heard the troublemaker, Nick, in the class say and wanted to recite. Its probably from ‘Jackass’ or something like that.
These were years with lots of video, but lots that’s hard to find without really digging and getting out old DV tapes, etc. Some very special things in here, including my full school documentary about being in ‘Snow White & The Group Of Seven’ with never before seen footage of lots of the Canadian Idols, Alan Frew, Ross Petty and more.
Reflections are below the playlist.
Video Reflections, April 2015:
First, we have ‘Fetus’, which would have been my second attempt at an animation. I feel like there was more at the start that for some reason, isn’t here. We had to make a commercial for our ‘film company’. So this was mine. Egad.
Then we have my third attempt at flash, in very low quality unfortunately. Computers back in the day – I would come up against roadblocks perpetually for being able to export video how I wanted, no matter what systems I used… so I would often end up desperately finding complex ways to stick projects together before the program would crash on me. This is a variety of shots, then stuck in seperate editing software. I guess the only way I could present this one was in extremely low quality, that was the only way my programs and the school programs could handle it. Some weird visual ticks, etc, as a result. The story is about someone who basically has a catastrophic effect on the planet with every action they take – an extreme Butterfly Effect. When he cries, New Orleans gets drowned, etc. I remember giving someone else the task of animating the water that came in to devour the city. This is a crazy idea but pretty well directed… and the sound works well with it. Of course the animation and art is meh. But that’s what I was capable of. Once people start blurting out ‘Warm linens!’ and God, ‘God rest His soul’, passed away… it gets in a major WTF territory, but doesn’t care, and there’s something appealing about that too. Its an odd lesson in accepting things as they are, and accepting the impact you’re bound to have on things. I love that his name is so uncreative, despite this ridiculous premise. I also like that setting the world right means that Mel Gibson fades away without explanation.
Ah! Then we have the documentary I slaved over about my time in ‘Snow White’, for my film class in very early 2006. The half that was made, anyways. The teacher was a very hard marker on this, because I had made an observation about the issues with sound that there were rife in another student’s film and was holding some childish vendetta against me as a result. I remember having a very low self-esteem during the process of being in this show, big surprise. I was very awkward then if you haven’t noticed by now :), but I would have lots of fun with Gary, Ryan and Billy during the process. Billy & Ryan went out of their way to try and corrupt my mind with dirty words and general tomfoolery. I think I’ve said some other things about the process of being in that show throughout this page, so I’ll let the documentary generally speak for itself. However, here’s subtext that I never speak of in the film: I remember definitely feeling like I was sabotaging myself somehow every night, and feeling guilty that I felt psychologically incapable of giving my all, considering I was performing to upwards of 1,500 people a night. I was very quiet about it. Sean Cullen stuck with me in my mind though, and would become one of my heroes. I remember driving back to our place after a performance, and seeing him walking down the street on his way to perform at the Gemini Awards – just with a backpack and a big smile on his face. I remembered that image somehow – it stuck with me as a ‘I want to be like that’ moment. I wanted the lightness he had, and would cultivate that into my way of being, slowly but surely. He even reached out to me at one point, cos he could see that I was sad – but I resisted talking about it. Stubborn as a bull I was. I remember making really awful thank you cards for the cast and crew with really weak puns in them – it was all in my attempt at keeping really young and innocent, almost in denial that I wasn’t eleven anymore, but fourteen.
‘Flash’ is really called ‘Nostalgia: Tomorrow Is Yesterday’, a really badly made flash animation. This is my first attempt at comprehending animation and using flash. But fun to watch too in how bad it is. Maybe? You know your film is bad if a mysterious voice needs to be a commentator explaining it to you. Did I mention bad? The credits include ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ by The Animals, ive at the Bridgenorth Causeway Festival from the previous summer.
‘Special Olympics’ is me performing at the Special Olympics closing ceremonies. This was another huge crowd, about five thousand – mostly of differently-abled athletes and their families. This also has a bunch of special memories for me. ‘Moondance’ was my go-to song of that summer. I remember feeling like Michael Jackson when I was done – like a true performer. It was a great feeling. Of course, the footage doesn’t exactly reflect the feeling. I also did ‘Crocodile Rock’, which everyone could really get into. Lovely memories. This is one of very few public appearances of my candy red Squire I got for Christmas 2003, and wanted badly for some reason. A few months later, Alice Cooper would play the same re-purposed skating arena and I would watch him.
‘Festival Of Lights’ was a monstrously huge performance – probably 10,000 people. I got to guest and do two tunes. I freakin loved it. It was overwhelming for the ego to have that many eyes on me. This was a rare period, like with the Navy Club video, where I’m not tethered by a guitar – letting some ridiculous movements come out.
‘Out On An Adventure’ would have been taped in 05. I have no idea where.
‘Brighton Rock Bit’ is from 06, talked about more in the demos section if you really care. There’s many more songs from this session… lots of which you also have audio of in the demos section. I wish I could find all of these. Not yet, anyway.
‘Martial Arts’ is early 2004, a silly little school project I made with my brother. Just us having fun and riffing off our love for a Kung-Fu parody movie ‘Kung Pow: Enter The Fist’. We talk about some technical things about the history of Judo & Kendo, which is how this counted as a school assignment. It was mostly just a reason to have fun. We work well together 🙂
‘Seasides’ is from that Causeway Festival. This gives you a sense of the unglamorous performance setup I had, which I think makes it funnier when you consider how overboard I went with prepping for that show – making lots of personalized band tracks, never repeating a song, etc. I played for probably seven hours of nonstop music over those three days without repeats.
‘Navy Club’ is from a place in Peterborough. I sing a couple standards. This definitely would have been 2005. You can also hear my demos of those tunes too on this page. My attempts at dancing are so awkward… but I’d generally lost all sense of pride by this point. I was a numb cretin, with a pasted on smile.
‘Performances’ includes a lot of old performances, older that this year docket, but also includes some near the end of a BBQ festival I played at in Summer 04. I think it may have been the same day as the Festival Of Lights. Talk about a nice day to be a performer. Don’t try the phone number at the end, its definitely bunk now.
I include the ‘Demo 08’, because it spans a lot of years, and has some clearly 06 stuff, including a smidgen of that live concert I did in the auditorium one lunchtime of ‘Hitler!’.
Lyrics, Poems Etc 2006-2004
Click here – literally, right here – and you will find a monster-sized folder rife with some of the lyric/poem/etc fragments or final results that were typed out in the years 04-06, for an insight into the creative process. In particular, 2005 and 2004 I didn’t touch. Everything in my digital records from those years are in those folders. I usually sift to make sure there isn’t anything too weird – but then at a certain point, I realized I’ve got nothing to hide, so may as well just plop it all up. Its so old, nothing in there can really be taken seriously or relevant to now. Usually in every file there’s a couple lines of gold, a couplet here or there.
While there’s a lot of bad ideas here – at minimum, there’s usually a couplet or two that seem pretty good, great, or profound every couple files. The idea isn’t to entirely present things I’m proud of, just like with the rest of The Abravault. There’s a wide variety of stuff in these years – from all the songs that were never recorded for ‘Utopian’, ‘Hitler!’, to endless song ideas or complete songs. Usually, some song idea was typed out every day.
There’s also a small folder with some academic writing from High School and University in it, including a couple things from 2005. Way more I could have included, so many school assignments. But hey, save me the brief of combing through all that. For now, at least. That folder is available by clicking here.