Twenty Twelve (2012) was a year of beys blading, landmark moments, double meanings, and denning beavers.
– ‘The Beaver Den’, a new musical with music and lyrics (and plenty of the plot and premise) by Taylor, gets its first fully-staged workshop production.
– The fundamental idea for the show comes to Taylor whilst voicing the lead character ‘Yuki’ in ‘Beyblade: Metal Fury’, curious about the ‘dark underbelly of the children’s entertainment world’.
– Taylor creates the NPO ‘Everyone’s Human’, committed to celebrating the human condition fully. Events prove to be great fundraising successes for Kid’s Help Phone, and create open discussion on mental health and stigma.
– Taylor participates throughout the year in some powerful, rigorous, personal growth programs that will be of benefit for the rest of his life. Many wonderful adventures and struggles emerge as a result.
– Taylor fights like a dog to save his old highschool, PCVS (Peterborough Collegiate And Vocational School), from being closed and students being vanquished to a different environment that they didn’t ask for. Despite it becoming a national story, He realizes after the fact he should have gone on a hunger strike.
– Taylor completes four years at York University focusing on a BFA in music, two credits shy of a full degree.
(Click on the images in the slideshow for occasional details, and a larger view)
Click On A Title Below To Be Directed To That Section:
Digit (Full Album), Demos Etc, Beaver Den Demos,
Everything Else: Videos, Lyrics/Poems Etc, Dictations
This generally electronic collection was my third and final recording project for the soon-to-be infamous ‘X032 Contemporary Musicianship & Improvisation’ program at York University, a course lead by the brilliant Casey Sokol.
Full 13-track album with 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks & original proposal for the project. You can listen for free below, or purchase the whole collection for the generous price of $5 on bandcamp.
More album reflections and track reflections can be found lower on the page.
This is both a very experimental endeavor, and a hybrid of some very poppy songs. Everything is more produced, improvisational, and something very unusual for me, uses an extensive amount of synth. All of this was part of a project required of me during my last semester of a Free Improvisational program at University, and all generally done in spurts over the last month of that program.
Typically, these University recording projects were gargantuan tasks – a minimum of five discs of documented improvisation recorded throughout the year with meticulous writing about each track & other aspects of the improvisation, plus a highlights disc, organized with multi-level TOC. These projects would also include collaborations with other students, professors & artists (Including Matt Brubeck, Steve Koven, Mary Margaret O’Hara to just name three). My two other projects were sprawled out over seven or eight discs of about 80-100 tracks ranging from 10 second to forty minutes each, and in total, it ranged from 100 pages typed up to 150 per project. So, yes, they were disgustingly long, but also a valuable experience in examining my creative thought processes & developing clarity with the written word.
For this third and final recording project, I was allowed to take a different route than I had in previous years in that program. I wanted to explore my fascination with electronic music, which resulted in a project where I was allotted a few hours to construct a song with the computer, and then create a couple alternate expanded mixes per track with the same timeframe. Due to the time constraints, there was a built in necessity to improvise in order to complete & fill up a mix of a song. In addition to that, I was examining the improvisational process necessary for song construction.
For variety’s sake, there’s a couple more ‘commercial’ exceptions to these limitations included on this collection. See the proposal for the full sense of the limitations for this assignment.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
First off, I should explain that one of the restrictions with this assignment is that there had to be a true sense of improvisation in every recording, and self-imposed time limits for how long I had to make each one happen – including mixing and producing the recording after creating the raw audio. I would do one version of something, building on whatever came before it, including improv elements that I would the analyze and write about. Each song would have a variety of versions – where, with some consistent elements, I would rebuild the song based on the previous version. Sometimes there were two, sometimes three different versions. This assignment was also only done for the latter half of that year in that improvisation program, and not for the first half – which is why its substantially shorter. Really, most of this happened in little bubbles of work over the course of a months.
A month later, I arranged it in a nice order and released it’s highlights & some other tracks for a small price on Bandcamp.
‘Caveman’s Lament’ was just some fun dissonant stuff, the first thing I tried creating for this assignment. I LOVE the jarring ending, where I work in screams and smidgens of Randy Newman singing in ‘Faust’. I couldn’t tell you what version this was. Best to look at the full improv project for that, and substantial analysis on these, if you really want to. The link was shared above. The title sort of makes no sense, but something about the initial synth line reminded me of music in video games that take place in different primitive ages, mostly the original ‘Age Of Empires’, which has a very distinct Stone Age component. I worked in some Age Of Empire sounds into it after that, which sealed the deal.
‘Elusive’ is much more coherent, still pretty messy though – pace and beat-wise. I can’t beat-box very well. Under the limitations of the assignment, I couldn’t really get that anal, nor was that in my nature at the time. Now I’m way more interested in making clean, pristine recordings, in addition to a lovely mess. This was the third version of this. Of course, less improv in this since its very much a coherent, written song – but still, there’s lots of improvisation in the the synth and the extra guitars. An initial version of the chorus was made the summer before, then I conjured up the rest in bits and pieces over the next year. I think an early version of the guitar part & some of the lyrics (’Light as a feather, still slammed by a garbage truck’) began as something that nothing else happened with called ‘Perpetual Love’. I used to hate the verses, but they don’t bug me so much anymore. Its a song that’s very beat driven, which is uncommon for me, and something I should do way more in my music. Its harder unless you actively work with beats. I did try some cool things with this little demo to help flesh it out more that really worked – I love the synth that comes in during the Chorus, and the ferocious, Flaming Lips style echo at the end, especially on the word ‘static’. I love when something fades out at its highest energy. I am very tempted to do more with this tune. Bryn and I actually performed this together a little bit for a one-off gig at the University Of Toronto, then never really again. Perhaps we’ll resurrect it! The parts interlock lovely. The opening guitar idea wouldn’t have happened without hearing ‘Rewrite’ by Paul Simon, and the title of the chorus was also inspired by his ‘Bright Green Pleasure Machine’ song.
‘Snake Silvers’ is just outright improv I would have done with cool effects simultaneously. I LOVE THIS! Two layers: Vocals done during the guitar take, then one total vocal take. Layer reacting to each layer in a lovely balanced cascade of free improv glory. Not for everyone obviously! I think guitar came first. I really love this from a textural standpoint. Lots of great dynamics. Some of the lyrics were definitely some hastily written poems. The title I love, even though it doesn’t make sense really. It just falls well on paper, and feels right somehow for this. ‘The smile is just the human being trying to split in half’. Freaky notion! Each half of each person is generally a mirror image, after all.
‘Count The Cards’ started as a guitar improv with stuff added overtop by me in an improv fashion. This literally sounds like an idea dictation that I added a ton of stuff to – the lyrics are just placeholder, like me figuring something out for the first time. The sound around 1:30 is from Scatman’s ‘Dream Again’, transposed to different keys, and the sea sounds in general throughout I think are from it too. Weird and messy, not the greatest success from this little experiment, but I love how it dies at the end.
‘Please Thrive’ was based on a poem by a friend, Shawna. This is part of a full video you can find in the videos section that was a grand, spontaneous collaboration with various friends and people from the states. It was made to be entered in a contest for mental-health based videos. It didn’t win anything, but I still think its good. I had to improvise music to compliment the feeling of the poetry, so this is what came. I think Shawna actually dictated it on the phone to me, cos that was the only way we could record it in time. I like the sound actually!
‘You’re A Wizard Too’ I’ve written about in a variety of instances. Its a pivotal moment in my singing and self-esteem as a performer for me, right after completing a three day personal growth program. The song, the video – everything about it, was built in one very intentional day. I hadn’t been so inspired to sing since I was a little kid. It meant so much to me to feel that much about what I was doing again. This is really sort of sandwiched on here. Improv is inevitably involved, but not to the same degree as the other songs.
‘Make Up Your Own Rules’ is another sweet song. The bass line kills. Everything about it works so well. I want to get a proper studio version of this done. Catchy as f***, and I can really get behind the sentiment. Tight demo. Love how the acoustic guitars work off each other. ‘Don’t have to trust the strength of the Challenger’s O-Ring’, such a weird, obscure lyric – about the Challenger space shuttle tragedy, and how a single little bit of rubber being installed right could have avoided it all.
‘Two Friends’ is a big fat improv – the synth and vocals done at the same time, while I was able to hear all the filters I put on things. Very Laurie Anderson inspired, lots of fun to do, and amusingly uncomfy for me because this was so ridiculous and weird. The lyrics were shot out in one big abstract pass beforehand. This is like some Gundam Wing anime show – its so silly. Like, the far-off Mars-roving future, as viewed by 1981.
‘This Ain’t Solsbury Hill’ includes a melodica performance, improvised by James Atin-Godden. This is really awesome. So good! Magical even. Very drunken Irish shanty sort of feeling, but simultaneously too sophisticated to be that. Again, I think lyrics were spontaneously written first, and then the melody and chords came second. Some of the guitar takes are tuned down digitally in octaves, creating a wonderful big sound from one guitar. I think this was inspired, musically, by ‘So Long Marianne’ by Leonard Cohen, and of course for the title, by ‘Solsbury Hill’ by Peter Gabriel. Very tasteful things to be homaging. The latter song is so much about excitement and adventure to me, about your heart pounding ‘boom boom boom’ whilst on it. So, its a song that apologizes to the narcissistic, lazy protagonist that he’s not getting his Solsbury Hill moment here. Its a very compassionate song about someone trying very hard not to be understood, but also knows its not working – more about some particularly artsy poser people I knew. The sense of language is really refreshing – I’m trying to write how they would think, rather than how I would write, and I think that helps it and frees me to go further. The chord progression is so slow and deliberate that you have more space to go in wonkier places lyrically – it still feels very grounded. That’s a great songwriting trick – finding certain familiar elements to ground a piece so people’s need for familiarity is sufficiently satiated, freeing you to go insane in other ways.
‘Choice’ is just weird and ridiculous, sort of insufferable, based more on samples coalescing in unique ways. It was an attempt at something ‘Art Of Noise’ would make, but it gets too big and insane too fast, out of laziness really. Not the most successful improv on this. Lots bits of this are from other songs I wrote that take about choices: ‘Boy On The Mountain’, and a nice unreleased song called ‘Choices’. Not sure if a demo was ever done with it. The main audio bits came from recording bits of a beat poetry night. I sing my song ‘Genes On The Other Side Of God’s Clothesline’ at the end at that poetry event.
’Snake Part 2’ skips a couple minutes in the middle of the 16 minute improv that ’Snake Silvers’ was, and gives us another segment. More of the same. Poetry I made up in one pass being spitted out. Abrupt endings to act as transitions between tracks.
‘Apology Song’ was just added as a fun joke for my Professor. Main guitar and voice all improvised. I also had to grade myself, and that contributed to part of my grade, which I think is a very progressive approach. I think I gave myself a failing grade for this whole assignment actually, based on my expectations and criteria, or maybe 60%, so a near fail. I ended up with 75% or so because of that, because my teacher was much more supportive of this assignment. Lots of parts of this get better with age.
‘Phone Heaven’ is so named because I use sounds from my phone throughout that gradually build. This is a better attempt at a ‘LemonJelly KY’ or ‘Art Of Noise’ sort of song. There’s audio of me setting up a physiotherapy treatment, and talking to someone about a cat – and a ringtone from my phone at the time when I got a text. There’s also very talented musician Rehan Dalal shouting out some acknowledgement about me, and me pretending to be Scatman John in a pretty unconvincing fashion. Love this!! I want more of it. Very apt way to end an album. Now into the bonus tunes!
‘Herbalist Quane’ was made in 2011 as music for an ad. I write about it more in the 2011 Oddities section. Its wonderfully soothing. The rain sounds blend with the white noise buzz of the microphone, masking it well until near the end.
‘Bobby’ is terrifyingly wonderful, also written about in the 2011 Oddities section. There’s also a more accessible version without the intense jitters that extend it to no end, that I will look for. King Of The Hill sounds, synth – I love this so much. Horrifying hilarity. ‘You’ve got a problem with concentration…’, sums it up well.
‘Count The Cards (Try To Make It To The End)’ is another weirder improv I made that was an evolution on the initial ‘Count The Cards’. Like I said, each one would evolve on what I made before. Mostly I just plopped in an improv/dictation I did into my phone while walking down the streets in between smidgens of the song before. Its like channels constantly changing. Good luck getting to the end 🙂
Demos, Etc, 2012
Demos are ways of recording a song without solidifying the final performance, arrangement, and whatever various studio magic can be done to a song so it sounds ‘stereo friendly’. The fundamental purpose of a demo is just to get a song down, so you can hear it objectively and figure out what is working and not working about it. Usually, I have the tendency of making a demo and then neglect the song for a new idea. However, sometimes, old ideas filter back into the new ones.
You can likely find lyrics for the songs in this playlist by digging through the lyrics folder for this year, available further down this page, or by clicking here.
Track reflections are below the playlist.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
‘Melanie’ was made as a perk for my Indiegogo campaign for ‘Everyone’s Human’. For $25, someone would get a personalized song about whatever they wanted. I still offer personalized songs (at a more just price), and don’t share many of them so they stay special to the individual. This one I used as practice at attempting to make a very polished sounding recording with minimal equipment. It was a nice mellow thing to do in the summer. Bryn is beat boxing on this. My guitar soloing is surprisingly nimble and sensitive. Sometimes we still reference this song live. Not sure if the girl was made uncomfortable with this tune – if she thought I was hitting on her! Not the intention! At a certain point, making the song became really fun, and it just naturally began to sound more romantic as layers were added. It wasn’t the intention when the basic shape of the song was written for it to feel like a sexy Latin-tinged tune.
Then we have an alternate take to ‘Hello Brain!’, more on it in the video section – with a different live audio take in that video. I kind of prefer this one – I’m more comfortable with it by this point, but not too comfortable.
‘Harlem’ is me trying to re-do the opening of the monster internet craze. Someone paid me ten bucks for it. Pretty good for three seconds of work.
Then, we have a bunch more of those improv songs, this time raising money for our first production of ‘The Beaver Den’. These are just some of them. They’re all pretty fun and entertaining – thought I’d lost them until now!
‘Couch Potato’ is someone else who paid for a song. This is a pretty painful demo of what the song would have been. Its actually got a lot of good melodies and ideas, just the vocals for some reason I’m forcing like no tomorrow, and it diminishes it. A full version was never made. He has a youtube channel called ‘CouchPotatoTheatre’.
Then, we have some earlier mixes of tunes from what became ‘Digit’; the initial version of ‘Phone Heaven’, ‘Count The Cards’ before any real electronic work, and ‘Elusive’ when its very long and awkward and thin. I think its mostly self-evident why the changes were made to the tracks that were – remember these tracks were also all made under strict time limits that are laid out in the proposal document, the link near the top of the Digit section in case you missed it.
‘Around The Range’ is just dystopic guitar junk I just found that was in the same folder as the Digit stuff. I suppose I was considering doing other mixes on this and making it into something quite special for the project, but I didn’t.
‘Move A Little Lo’ early in the year at an performance. My vocal tension is too much in it unfortunately. Hear the demo on the 2011 page. This song would ultimately mutate into ‘Kill The Melody’.
‘I Want You Back’, this pretty weak live fragment… I think was done in Florida, at one of a couple open mics I decided to frequent. Or maybe I’m mixing up years. Yeah, probably. I don’t know when this was done, or why I had it in such easy access compared to all the other infinitely better amounts of live audio I surely have tucked away from this year (too much to go through right now). But for some reason, this little bit of junky re-doing of a Jackson 5 marvel is now remembered in the vault. Sigh.
Then there’s an entire concert I put on! There were other performers too but I think this is just my section. I forget the name of the venue, I know it was a gastropub. Lots of stuff in here, it distorts and etc. The only time so far I’ve successfully used a loop pedal during ‘Silly Love Songs’ near the end. That was a nice night – I remember staying up till 5 in the morning in a park afterwards, getting a deep tissue massage from a friend who came to the show. Watching the sun rise after getting the most thorough massage of your life is a pretty interesting thing. I think Bryn was there too.
Beaver Den Demos, 2012
The Beaver Den is a musical I began creating years ago with Jennifer & Jaclyn Enchin. Its a show that is slowly gaining a cult following due to its ribald humor, its heart, and its unapologetic-ally Canadian charm. An early version made the Top 10 at ‘Best Of Fringe 2012’. As of March 2015 when I type this, Five different productions have been produced, including one that a bunch of enthusiastic small-town high school students created themselves. We’ve received lots of four star (out of five) reviews from various entertainment publications, even just from these early versions.
If you’ve seen the show, you already have a sense of the story of the show. Its really not my jurisdiction to directly share the story, but I will give you a general premise at this time. First off, here’s a general promotional summary:
‘Set in 1999, at the wake of the children’s entertainment revolution, a cast of young Canadian actors are “stuck” on an outdated kid’s show filmed in Northern Ontario. Will they save the show from complete corporate takeover? It’s a musical…so probably. Get ready for a hilarious, outrageous, and perfectly polite time at The Beaver Den’
Now, a summary from the journey of a main character: ‘Tom, a budding actor from Toronto, finds himself at The Beaver Den – a long running children’s program that is struggling to keep alive. But after he begins enjoying his time there and truly becoming a ‘Beaver Bud’, he’ll have to discover what matters more – following the path of his hero, Keanu Reeves, or being there for those who need you.’ There’s a variety of interesting characters, all with their own journeys. I’ll dig a little more into things in the song summaries.
On this production:
The October 2012 production @ The LOT in Toronto was our first ever production. I remember the due date was rather surprised upon me in August that year, and I went for it. Music was done less than a month before performances. Everything was very tightly scheduled. I remember helping my girlfriend at the time dog sit, and recording demos in the bathroom to have some solitude.
Lots of this music wasn’t implemented for various reasons. These are my first real time truly grasping the extent of musical theatre, and having to deal with the painful brevity of it as well. I would have to lob off minutes from various songs simply to keep the show at a good enough pace. This production, as with all until Feb 2015, never really had the music performed anywhere in the intended ballpark – I was simply the writer, with no musical director capacities. I didn’t even play on it. The Musical director & a few freelancers helped transcribe my demos and make them piano-friendly. Some took too much creative liberty as well. Heck – one major ‘not cool’ were some of my lyrics being changed without my consent, and the total forms of certain songs being altered without discussing it with me first. I had to find out when I was invited to a dress rehearsal the day before the doors opened. One of many things that happen working with disorganized people – very important things aren’t even discussed with you.
Basically – back at this point, the brilliant initial cast we had saved this production. The songs and script weren’t quite up to snuff yet. However, there were still many things working about it right from the gate and lots of laughter, which is why we found ourselves getting a good population out to each showing. It was wonderful for the Lower Ossington Theatre to take a chance on us, and we made them some bucks in the process.
I ran into the wonderful songwriter/human being Blair Packham on the street one day around this time, after I had taken part in ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’, walking a mile in high heels. He decided he wanted to interview me on his talk show, and we spoke about The Beaver Den. I’ll see if I can find a link to that.
My demos below are both well performed, and sometimes horrendously. They were ultimately just there for the musical director to be able to transcribe the songs.
Some of this years Beaver Den Lyrics/Lyric Fragments/Chord Charts/Etc, used or otherwise, can be found by clicking here.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
So some of these are from late 2011, but most are from 2012 in the late summertime whilst we were frantically rushing through a version of this musical. My co-creators picked an absurdly tight deadline, and would continue to make that mistake a couple more times.
The playlist is ordered generally in a way that the songs would appear in the show, with most of the ideas that never made the cut especially included near the start.
‘Good Mornin’ in earlier full form includes some nice sparse piano by me. This is a very different song that would be in the October show, let alone 2015 and beyond. I got my friends Alanah Garret & Emma Hewson to perform a little on it, just for placeholder sake. From then on out, I would just do all the ‘voices’ myself, since with demos it didn’t really matter. This is a very complicated opening number – frenetic. Not only do you have to get the sense of the whole show, get introduced to the characters, but they’re also preparing the set for a taping in a couple minutes. I dreaded re-writing this because of the complexity involved, and put it off because it makes far more sense to write an opening song near the end of the process, when you have a much clearer sense of what a show is really about. Obviously one major edgy direction we didn’t go with is ‘Progressive and creative… I’m Chinese and I’m playing a native!’, as funny as that is, and it makes a good commentary about minorities being relegated and playing each other arbitrarily in entertainment. However it also seemed inaccurate, since no kids shows I grew up with were actually that tasteless, so it seemed inconsistent with our source material. Native culture is something I also didn’t want to pretend I understood, although I want to. I think an educated take on it would help the show out actually, as we’re definitely missing parts of Canadian culture that aren’t represented. We also would make this a bit less ‘Avenue Q but Canadian’ in further rewriting.
‘Good Mornin/Pee’ is particularly unused, but amusing. Very Avenue Q – just getting used to writing like a musical, and finding a unique identity within it.
There’s also some dictations I would send to my co-creators in the very early days, trying to figure out what way songs should go. More or less, we would end up just having me make more full demos rather than these fragmented, very raw things for them, as these really aren’t all that helpful, just a nice thing for a time capsule, and a small step towards the musical getting written. I love piano, and am planning to play it more and get actually good at it.
‘Good Luck’ was me imagining Tom in the states in a waiting room before an audition, getting advice. The chords here are very sophisticated, and come after me figuring out and being flabbergasted by various bits of harmonic movement in ‘Popular’ from Wicked. It sucks around the middle for a bit. I was working at creating something that sounded very natural, but was simultaneously very out there for the tune’s opening. I started to realize how much more harmonic freedom you have in musicals since the focus was on making things ‘musical, yet conversational’, and how little transition between parts with dramatically varying keys and chords you can really get away with. Some of this melody would make it into ‘Polite’ & ‘Coffee & Wine’, which also never made the show.
‘The B-A-N-A-N-A Way’ was like an early version of ‘Tap That Tree’. Pretty tasteless phallic fascination – and of course not Canadian like ‘Tap That Tree’, which would give that one the nod it needed.
‘No One Really Likes Keanu Reeves’ is a great ‘Knights Of The Round Table’ type of song the woodland celebrity critters would have sung to warn Tom about Keanu Reeves. Maybe this is a better angle to go. I really like a lot of the lyrical ideas – they sound very Alan Menken & witty, which I’m proud of. They’re the mark of a writer working hard on picking the finest rhymes they can: ‘And the best can attest its true. No matter what we do, we’re never waltzing with high faultin Keanu’, I especially like. I would produce a better clip of this song that would play on a radio talk show where I was interviewed about the show. I had known by that point this song wouldn’t be performed, since they weren’t willing to get enough necessary puppets together in time.
‘Hi To Pi’ is a pretty lacklustre demo (I must have been brutally tired, just listen to my sense of pitch). Sounds like me writing a kids song that would have been on They Might Be Giant’s ‘Here Comes The 1,2,3’s’. I even try to sing a little like the John’s in it. I wanted to think of a clever children’s song that worked on multiple levels. This never made it in the show, nor should it have. No real place where it quite fits.
‘Canadanime 1.0’ is a really bad early attempt at a medley in the show off the start of Act 2. In the initial workshop, it would be blended with ‘Beaver Boogie’ rather than the other little bits (like the song about Nanaimo Bars.) There’s way too much cacophony going on, and none of it is all that funny. The later attempts at this from the same year are included later in the playlist.
‘Janitor’ would have been part of a weird, bad medley I was imagining in the early days of the show. Completely tasteless and racist – but the show was, for a time, really trying to be a commentary on the awful stuff kids shows could seemingly get away with before the 21st century. I must say I’m very proud in a sick way of the rhyme: ‘Four plus four is eight, and ate is what you did – to four servings of fruit, and vegetabalez’. If he didn’t have an accent, the rhyme wouldn’t work 🙂
‘Best Me Around’ was another unused tune, in a very unpolished, early form. I thought it might be neat to have a black character who was really your typical Albertan country boy sing it – who felt he had to hide that side of him and be a ton of black stereotypes. Didn’t make it in, cos we went in a different direction with a character – but maybe this would add depth to the show somehow. ‘I always mow my lawn, and I’m not Jamaican, mon. And I don’t like fried chicken – I’m a vegetarian.’ I forgot about the good Matrix reference I worked in: ‘I don’t come from a broken family, and I don’t own a gun. I don’t spend my life telling white guys they’re the one’.
‘Tap That Tree’ in its earliest form. We liked the contradiction of an obviously gay character on the show, writing a song that’s a huge Freudian slip for who he is. The song would get refined further.
‘Whoa Canada’ was a rip-off of ‘O Canada’, naturally. For some reason, they weren’t allowed to sing the actual national anthem, and had to do a sponsor-approved version. This is very much based on the ‘Kamp Krusty’ song in The Simpsons.
‘Why’ is a bit like an early attempt at Keanu & Me. I was trying to figure out the psychology of Tom, and making something way too deep and Sondheim-y.
‘Keanu & Me’ would be cut down in length with each production. It was also played excruciatingly slow in the first version, for reasons beyond my control. Interesting to hear all the little ways, and major ways I nipped and tucked it since this, as I got ruthless about making the music compact, fast and funny.
‘Princess In Me’ is a song I began writing on our long Greyhound trips with Victoria Di Giovanni to Nashville for a week. Whenever I had ten minutes at a crappy convenience store to eat during my delirious sleep-deprived 24 hour bus journey, I would try to play guitar to the lyrics I was making up. ‘Princess In Me’ would appear in Act 1 in a bunch of early productions. This is about Patty’s past, with a domineering father who would make her chop wood and be a lumberjack, which has given her a hard time expressing her feelings around other people. Its a beautiful song, but it doesn’t fit this particular musical in the way we wanted it to. The melody is lovely and sweet and pure. Its quite special really. But, you gotta kill your babies! Maybe this one will get revived in the future, who knows. ‘The Ottonabee quenching the thirst of the maple tree…’
‘Princess In Plaid’ is another lovely attempt at the same song. Sad and pretty. This was cut out under some strict time deadlines – the cast needed one or the other, and this one unintentionally suggested rape & murder, which seemed too dark for what the show is. This was written after the ‘Princess In Me’ one, so it was harder to see the words ‘don’t cry don’t hurt’ in anything but the connotations of that song – but with the lyrics surrounding that line in this song… it means something very different. Once a ridiculously devastating subjects make it into a show of this nature, you can’t really laugh at anything that follows. I like the verse:
She never had a friend, as she trudged the tundra snow
While the reserve girls played with Barbies, she had to play with GI Joes
She tried to chop away the anger, but father just saw the pace
For her sweet sixteen, she got the gift of kindling the fireplace
‘You’re Only Getting Closer/Princess In Me’ started as a totally different song I wrote the year before the moment that Bryn and I had settled into a hostel in Halifax for a week. The general idea still remains, and it would make a good pop/folk song when taken out of a musical context. This would have been in Act 2 when Patty needed to have a breakthrough to discover to go after all the cast members who had been leaving the set. Included early in the playlist cos of the ‘Princess’ stuff that would ultimately be in Act 1 instead. Using that song like this was a more psychological, profound and complex narrative for her to take, one that didn’t quite seem in keeping with what we wanted the show to be. This is also way too long for most musicals. Some odd cuts in this demo just because its a demo, and I didn’t care about total ease of following it. I would get that worked out later on if we agreed it was a good fit for the show.
‘Intention To Love’ is a song initially written by James Atin-Godden, in a brief period where we were trying to outsource writing work. Included here is me trying to rework the song into something that felt more like the show. It would be removed from the musical by 2015. Should have been removed earlier, but I had very disorganized partners. They consistently used his initial version instead of my updated one. It felt very out of place using his – lots works about the song, it just didn’t fit the goofy spirit of this musical.
‘Polite’ is an early version of ‘Coffee & Wine’ that may have been better, not that it mattered since neither made it in.
‘Coffee & Wine’ is a really long tune that also didn’t make the cut. I had this one melody, that you’ll hear in the chorus that I really badly wanted to work into the show, but it never really happened sensibly. It sort of was re-tooled in ‘Keanu (In A Stick)’ in the Feb 2015 production, but that has a very different feel. This one is also too abstract in premise – we thought honesty would be a major theme in the show, so that’s why a lot of this deals with ‘lying’ and being ‘polite’ in order to not face reality. However, at least when we tried it here, it seemed abstract, and it also didn’t seem universal and gripping enough. This is too ‘Turn It Off’ from Book Of Mormon in premise, and we wanted to steer away from that, since it had been done before, and we found it didn’t seem to make our characters that likeable. Its also just not that funny, them constantly avoiding dark realities through song, at least when presented like this. It treads on a lot of things we know already from other songs. I love lots of musical elements in this, just not the general angle of the song.
‘Like A Maple Leaf’ in early form. The demo is horrible and done under duress, but it was enough to get it transcribed. I imagined it working well with full production, and I was right, as I usually am.
‘Johnny Love’ came pretty early on in the process, and never changed much over the years. Lots of people’s favorite part of the show is this song. You can hear a more substantial demo in the 2013 Den demos.
‘Friendship’, for sensible reasons, would end up getting cut down substantially into a 2 minute or so song when it would get performed in the future. I would also change the melody a bit more so it didn’t reek quite so much of the ‘Full House’ theme song. Here it really becomes something more akin to an act closer because its so epic and so much plot development is happening. I was having so much fun making music, I had lost all concept of how long songs were supposed to really be, and how many songs you could reasonably fit into a musical without exhausting audiences. Kill your babies! One of the lessons in writing a musical worth watching.
‘Basketball’ didn’t change much. I love this little dictation. I love the sincerity of this. It really paints a picture. This is a song for Jeremy, the little kid who watches The Beaver Den at home to escape his abusive parents. For some dumb reason this would be performed in the runs it was in without pathos, which totally ruins the song. You can imagine how hard it can be, being a songwriter and simultaneously not being given the chance to be the musical director because ‘you don’t have a lot of prior musical director training’. But, major things were missed in these runs, this included. Because of how it was delivered, many people though the parents were having sex, not fighting, so this song got laughs instead of tears. Ridiculous.
Early demo of ‘Trendy Trance’ also included, which would be re-worked into ‘Canadian Famous’.
‘Story Of Johnny’ is a real tear-jerker, included in a lot of the earliest versions of the show. I should have a video of it in the video section. Its a bunch of disparate parts together that seem to work quite well. James also took a stab at writing this initially – I would about three lines that he made up from it, and that would help me springboard the whole new song. Its definitely our ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
‘Vitamin Love’ was an unintended ripoff of ‘If You Were Gay’ from ‘Avenue Q’, melody-wise. So, of course it was never used in any capacity. Also, once I wrote ‘Tap That Tree’, the cutesy kids song seemed to be written. ‘Jamie’ was an early name for ‘Patty’.
All videos completely edited by me, except if on another channel than mine. Ordered generally from newest to oldest, with some of the highlights placed near the start. Plenty of these are only visible here, and have since been made unavailable on the main Youtube page. This is simply because some of these are so old, they no longer reflect me, are honestly (embarrassing!), and it would be confusing for newcomers to my page to see such drastically different Taylors from far bygone years hop around their ears.
If a video bores you, don’t be afraid to skip ahead, I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
I’ll make some notes on some of the videos below the playlist. However, I won’t make as many notes, since you can click on the videos themselves usually to learn more about it, and read the video descriptions.
Video Reflections, April 2015:
‘Auld Lange’s Sign’ is a little thing I put together the last day of 2012. I was inspired by getting very into Tim Minchin and his sense of wordplay. I wanted to make an honest, vivid and funny ‘f*** you’ that felt a bit more conversational and free. I really like this, and you can really appreciate it’s cleverness more within a lyric video. This also definitely summarizes a lot of the things I was constantly confronting in my own life out of taking all the leadership work I had. I couldn’t settle for small resolutions anymore, and really find them inauthentic when people make them. You’ve got one life. Take on something huge that really lights you up. Why settle for less? Of course, getting that reality in your bones takes work, and it takes coaching. It won’t happen in a world where many people have assigned themselves to indifference & mere survival. I also work at taking the melodrama out of it in this song: Just do something!! People wait for this mythical ‘right’ thing to appear, and it stops a lot of wonderful things from happening. ‘By whatever arbitrary date you choose to answer your arbitrary passion’.
Make a list of past defeats
Comb out the tears, and follow your feet
To the place you were gonna go someday, when you felt like it.
I hear its fun to sky dive, buy a pet, be the ‘Hug Bill Nye Guy’
You can humble an ego at a 6,000 foot Volcano.
And I know I’ve got a climb that’s steep,
And since the internet, talk is especially cheap
And my free-will runs too deep for me to reap
Being some self-help sheep.
But if you’re asleep to potential, can I slap you in the face?
And you can punch me in mine, and we can rock our new fates?
‘Hello Brain’ came from spontaneously co-writing and performing a tune for a guy with an Youtube channel. I really love the animation he did. Baffling his channel doesn’t get more attention, especially since its in a very in a modern WTF internet aesthetic. This song is a little too fancy to quite be a big deal. Its funny in a sad and creepy way, rather than a ‘LOL Randomz’ way (plus wit) that the lowest common denominator prefers, I guess. He initially made the lyrics, but I had to tighten them up, since they were too conversational to even fit a song. This was all one take. Bryn joins with some distant harmonica.
‘Like A Maple Leaf’ from our initial workshop production of The Beaver Den in October 2012. Its performed too slowly, not to mention other things wrong with it, but the energy and Beaver Den charm is omnipresent, and the crowd is eating it up. I, for some odd reason, wasn’t part of deciding how my songs would be delivered until 2015.
‘Creativity Month’ was a spontaneous undertaking just to keep me empowered and doing something I normally wouldn’t do. I failed substantially, putting out maybe thirteen videos that month. It was a huge month, and making videos didn’t help matters. The idea was an ‘anything goes’ approach.
‘Changed Guy’ is an earlier version of the tune. I write about it plenty more in the ‘Demos 2013’ section. Its fun seeing my old living arrangement again. Such a weird and gaudy look I gave that room!
‘Just Eating Eggs’ includes my good friend and roomie of the time, Michelle Davis. In her lovely room.
In ‘Hipster Caveman’, you can hear the early charms of the voice that would become my voice for Fangbone, so I suppose Creativity Month was totally worth it just for that. This is a funny idea 🙂 I like shedding light on the strange necessity for all indie music to sound needlessly reverb-y, and have singers who are interesting, but incomprehensible. Done in Bryn’s room of the time!
‘Slidey Steel’ gives you a good look at what my room looked like, though later it would get painted yellow and orange by me.
‘Ms. Claus’ is more total stupid fun. Something that Tom Green would do, dialed back about 10 notches. Just MTV silliness. My favorite is the ‘Run Lola Run’ music with the flashing images of lesbians, and then after seeing a dog like ‘Beethoven’, flashing the VHS cover of it. Just so dumb 🙂 I also think its crazy since cops are around this whole time from the Santa Claus parade that day. I’m lucky I didn’t tazed for just being a general dink.
‘Happy Birthday Dad!’ was a fun gift idea for my pep. I was helping to tape Copycat that day since I had a nice camera. I would also make a full-fledged music video for them too that you can find in the 2013 section, along with some weird little promos I made for them too.
‘Burnt Crust’ I don’t think I ever listened to since making it… Just another WTF improv. I love that I said ‘poon’. Usually I hide away from grotesque language, but it just seemed too obvious not to go for it. I love that it went from ‘Burnt Crust’ to ‘Poon’ to ‘Pig Town’ to the ‘Betty Ford Clinic’. The various associations one can make on a improvisational journey.
‘You’re Doin Something!’ is an awesome memory. Total spontaneous fun. I look like hell in all these videos :). Emma is always a treat, and a lovely person. We made a couple videos together that work really well. My favorite is a minute into it. Very Portlandia, but grosser. We were totally a Fred/Carrie sort of pair.
‘Creativity Month Day 2’ I talk about a thing I did where I was a creativity coach, and I had created a very interesting set of terminology and concepts to help comprehend creativity itself. A lot of that content would get assimilated into The Song Creation Workshop.
‘Mother Nature’s Son’ is pretty nice. I forgot about so much of this! I forgot that we had Yugo from the window on Skype watching. Technology. Its cray cray! Beatles song, of course. Little sound glitch of course, but its kind of neat too. Near the end, the ‘story of my life’, line.
Then I have some fun improv songs from the Rivoli. There’s footage of me in those same ridiculous shorts busking on the street with weiner hanging out during the Gay pride festival. Everyone’s junk was out, so it seemed pretty natural. One of the funniest experiences of my life was taking a break from busking to have pictures with Asian tourists whilst my dink hung out. They were fascinated with it! 😀
‘Tomorrow’ is me accompanying the wildly talented Victoria Di Giovanni as she sings her original. This was from a magical trip we took to Nashville. It proved very fruitful, but one needs to stay in Nashville longer than I did to really get going. I played at an open mic that usually you have to wait months to play… I just sort of snuck up and nobody stopped me. From then on, I was recognized all over town! At a restaurant the next day, a waitress recognized me and she was, of course, also a songwriter, so we wrote a song together during my stay. Literally right after playing this open mic, we walked down two doors before someone called into me from the bar who recognized me and said ‘Hey! You from the open mic! Come in and play!’. So I ended up getting to jam and improvise with an amazing band for a bit. It was truly magical. I am so grateful Victoria let me tag along – she has her own round of wonderful stories to share too. There’s so much footage from this trip which isn’t available – no good reason, really, just never happened. Time for me to make new memories and play new awesome shows anyways. We must have played eight or nine open mics in six days. I also met up with a high accomplished producer who I was put in touch with, who wanted to produce me. His price was too steep, but he was genuinely appreciative of me, and had a gap between now and the next Crosby Stills & Nash album (!) that he was recording!
‘Everyone’s Human’ was a huge crazy event I almost single-handedly organized earlier that year (than the upload date), whilst taking one of numerous leadership programs. The program I was in at the time was one very much about creating your own community project. We raised lots of money for Kid’s Help Phone that night. There must have been over 100 people who showed up to this event of it, and lots of performers and speakers who shared their time. It was a great way to be connected and give other people opportunities to share themselves. We did three of these events, and various other things. Loved doing it. More info on the ‘projects’ page. I want to make more of these sorts of things happen for sure. I really got to know myself as someone who was unstoppable, making all these lovely adventurous, bold things happen. It was a great bug to catch. Fun little improv number.
‘Adam Cohen’ is me with Mr. Cohen’s son singing part of the classic song ‘So Long Marianne’. That was a surreal night. It was at a big gala to Leonard at Massey Hall. My seat was shockingly close to where he was actually sitting. A bunch of terrific artists paid tribute to him that night. Afterward, I met Alan Rickman walking down the street with former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. He read some poetry from Leonard that night and I thanked him for the brilliant reading. I also chatted a bit with Serena Ryder and we’ve stayed in touch since, since we were both PCVS grads and were rallying to save the school around that time. A couple were trying to sneak me into Franz (the diner across the way) for the after party, but it didn’t quite work out. By ‘invitation only’, as you had to be on the (Franz) Liszt. See what I did there? However, Adam hung out around the front patio a bunch so I chatted with him and sang. A lovely, star-studded affair. Adam is a great guy. I remember him talking to a fan and sincerely wanting to honestly know what they thought of his performance. He asked multiple specific questions just be sure. He ain’t no bullshitter, just like his father. He also loved my paisley jacket and asked where I got it. I explained ‘Value Village’, and we had a laugh.
A more embarrassing chat I had was with Gordon Pinsent that night. I gave him my card and reminded him that we were in a series called ‘Power Play’ together when I was very young. I think I blubbered something about if he could be of any help to my career. Totally ridiculous exchange. He politely said something about ‘letting me know’ and then moseyed on. There’s certain exchanges I wish never happened, that’s one of them 🙂
‘Please Thrive’ was my entry into the ‘Change The View’ video contest that year. I edited this video. The audio is included in ‘Digit’. The idea was that the prize money we would have gotten could be used for various, lovely purposes in supporting ‘Everyone’s Human’ and Kids Help Phone. We didn’t win, didn’t get even close :). However, it was a fun experience working with people and making this happen. I’m unstoppable, baby! I also attended the actual party and ceremony they threw for the entrants. It was a nice affair I remember – however, I found it strange that for an event so much about people’s health, and alleviating the stigma of mental illness, that they didn’t have healthier food. It was just crappy pizza and pop. The black and white footage was contributed by Sara Faulkner O’Hara, someone who read a post I made on Facebook about looking for contributors, who got excited about the idea and messaged me. She’s a very lovely person who I had numerous chats with. All contributors are listed in the video description.
The Improv video with Brian Katz is fun. He was one of my instructors up at York University, and a wonderful spirit. He can make sounds out of a guitar I can’t even fathom. Such a great guy. I’m in his place here, with a weird necklace on that I would lose about a week later. How I miss it! It was a special, one of kind item I bought off an eccentric on the street who made them by hand. It includes various old clock parts and melted metal.
And here’s a little video bonus: The Date/Time Channel! A dumb little series on a youtube page I spearheaded with some friends and roommates of the time. When I lived a dingier existence. An amusingly pointless pursuit :). The intention was to make these nonstop – one a day. Instead, I stopped in a little bit over a week. I think I want to do this again 🙂 My favorites are the racist Bing Crosby one, and the one where Bryn and I talk for a long time. They’re all a wonderful time capsule of a particular time though 🙂
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 2012 for an insight into the creative process. 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. Just like with the rest of The Abravault, the idea isn’t to necessarily present things I’m proud of. There’s a wide variety of stuff.
There’s also some Beaver Den lyrics/fragments/chord charts/etc from this period available by clicking here.
There is also a small folder of academic writing with a little bit of typing from around this period, available by clicking here.
Dictations are generally that capturing of an initial spark of an idea. These can be done in a variety of circumstances – with laryngitis, very softly as to not bug the people around me, full-out, etc. In the playlist below is a sampling of dictations. I would be crazy to truly go through all of them. Really.
If I truly looked through all of my recordings on my phone, laptop and other devices – the amount of content to sift through becomes 500-1000 files per year – ranging anywhere from a second to a couple hours each. Simply put, I would probably spend the next year of my life reflecting on my life and sifting through files rather than living it. At a certain point, I have to trust that the best of my thousands of dictations find their way into my work unconsciously.
After the playlist, there are reflections on some of the dictations included.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
‘Truest Star’ would have been an improvisation done in a tunnel in a church courtyard late at night. I would bike through it at night on my way home, and would usually stop and make dictations for a little while first.
‘Die Before You’re 30’ is a morbid idea about the notion that many legendary music artists dying before they reach 30, and taking that as a sign to do the same to reach greatness. Not my plan! Done really as a joke.
‘Obese Pidgeon’ has a lot of nice stuff in it. Very dependent on the beat. I pause and stop and start a lot, trying different ways of doing the same section.
‘Me sounding…’ is very fun, if you listen past all the noise. I think I was taking a program, and this was one of our exercises.
‘Don’t Not Be’ is just me trying to think of some cool ideas that I normally wouldn’t. Very of the time. Almost like something Metric would make. As with a lot of these sorts of dictation, there’s plenty of hesitation and re-trying sections.
‘Little Suicides’. Beware distortion!! Love the title and general idea – how the little moments in life that we avoid making the most of… how they felt to me at the time. Its like a missed opportunity, like a little death.
Earliest form of ‘Talk To Ya Honey’, when it would have been a barn dance kind of tune. Glad I reworked it into what it became.
‘Free Improv’ dictated with various friends at some event. Of course you can hear a ton more free improvisations of this nature, if for some reason you really want to, on the 2011 and 2010 pages.
‘Great Advice’ is me and James mucking around for a minute.
‘Gonna Win’ and ‘Ted’ is more silly improv with various people after another random event up at a York U art studio that I put together. I think it was a chance for people to get together and improvise comedy scenes.
‘Little Suicides’, in a slightly earlier form. The ‘Confidence’ part of it would make its way into ‘Intuition’. Beware the distortion.