SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontOf course we would write a track in 5/4. It’s only logical and of course it’s a track about fish. What else would it be about? Pete. It’s Pete’s fault. He’s to blame. Totally and utterly Pete’s fault. And a bloody good idea it was too. The fish theme fitted because of the nursery rhyme that starts 1,2,3,4,5, once I caught I fish alive. But obviously we can’t have anything about life in this track, so it’s got death in it. ‘Send him a death letter’ is Pete’s influence. I also count to five. (Took hours of figuring out and writing.) Then I list five parts of a fish.

This track is really only a filler. The idea was to have a couple of tracks to bridge some gaps. Little fade in/out sections, BUT I think this one works on its own. It’s quirky. It’s random. It’s not in 4/4. It’s in keeping with the album concept/theme. Enough said.


10 missed calls…

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontI Heard You Calling (But Alas I Did Not Answer) is the next track on the list. I love this track for its colour and complexity. It is the track that has had the most work thrown at it but in the end it was certainly worthwhile.  The intro has layer upon layer of vocal harmonies. Some pitch shifted, most with a dollop of reverb mixed into them. The intro is in 13/4 (I think) and is based around a melody/riff (what is the difference?) I came up with. It starts off with clean(ish) guitar and builds till the distorted guitar is prominent, and then everything falls away again leaving just the distorted guitar and an atmospheric phase+reverb background guitar.  The second part, I think was from a bass idea from Pete. This bit is far more aggressive. Like a musical punch to the face. It kick out from the intro and sets things up for the verse. I added a bit of floating trem wobble to this hiding away in the back ground. Next is the verse riff and vocals. The vocals pretty much follow the riff, although the guitars here move to 5ths at different stages. It was tricky to match the pitch towards the end of each line hence the reduction in volume. Next up is a Pete inspired 7/4 section. Kind of dreamy and surreal. There is some phase guitar on here to add to the flavour. Rob did an amazing job with the drums on this section also.  It really feels so screwed together and original. I could quite easily commit to a whole album of this type stuff. I believe Rob recorded his guitar parts after the initial track was committed so he’d be best placed to guide us through that process. The lyrics were started with Pete’s idea (which is also the title) and for a while there was only one verse. The second verse was written when we were firmly in the realm of progressive rock, hence the noticeable tint of poetry (kinda) to them. I’m pretty sure this track has the highest guitar count of any we’ve done to date.

I Heard You Calling is probably the only track on the album which doesn’t have partner. Most others seem to have another track to sit along side it, but this I think sits on its own. Maybe Deep Within The Sea I Sleeps is the closest one to this in terms of direction mainly due to the sounds used. The vocals or concept aren’t really matching. There was a lot of listening to King Crimson around the time we wrote this. Even the guitar effects if bought for this album suited the style. (Analogue is the past AND the future!)

(Skip to the end) Hope you enjoy it. When you eventually hear it. Either free on SoundCloud or purchased from all good online music stores.

See! Horse! Seahorse!! 

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontSeahorse With No Name. Good song title. Inspired suggestion from Rob. Well played sir. This track has a cowboy feel to it. It’s weird we have this vibe on the album. Given how the music sounds it seemed obvious that the song needed a cowboy story to go along with it. I put three ideas of a story to Rob and Pete and this was the winner. The story of a guy who was courting the sheriffs daughter. She was a private dancer (a dancer for money), her dad didn’t approve. You get the idea. (And you’ll be listening to the song when you buy the album). It obviously has to mention the sea in it at some point so it starts on a boat.

My lead guitar was take number one, then edited about to match a structure (there wasn’t an error where I went to a chorus to early to remove as well, honest!) and I think the vocals were the first take after some practice runs. This song isn’t really in my singing comfort zone at all and because the vocal overlaps the end of chorus to verse change, it was a challenge to know which direction to go. I think it works and I’m proud of the result. Pete mentioned that he thought it was the best vocal recording I’d ever done. Cheers dude! Yippee!

Rob was the creative force on this one and, although I wasn’t 100% convinced at the time, suggested the ‘oms’ as backing vocals. He spent some/loads of time mixing and effecting them and POW! They fit and enhance the track perfectly. Good call Rob!

Id like a video for this track. I picture an urban cowboy being followed through various locations by a camera. Taking in the sites of modern life. Living his life eternally trying to find a replacement for his lost love, September. I may even buy a cowboy hat and get ‘her indoors’ to film me walking around for a bit. See what comes of it.

Those bones, those bones, those snow bones. 

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontThis is a favourite of mine. It has an eerie feeling to the guitar which gives it a nice distinction. The bass again ties the empty sound of the guitar to the drums, which up until the last minute where one pattern. Rob made a great job of using different kits/machine sounds to build the track in the choruses and the ending. I recorded the extra guitar parts at home home and Rob added them to the final mix. The lyrics for me were pretty easy to come up with. I love the chorus lines. I’m not sure where the idea of snow bones came from but the image I had in my head was of some one dreaming of a pale skinned lover who only comes around at night. (Do your snow bones). The subject of the song wants more from the relationship but is afraid to show that in case the lover never returns. (Because I’m afraid of death, I bend) Another song of self doubt and wants.

We seem to have a couple of these ‘feelings’ type of tracks on each album. (Older and Carolyn from the last album. Actually, The Noise is a feelings driven track for me as well. I tried to get emotion through in the way I sung that song. I like breathy type songs).

What’s that noise?

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontThe third track we’re looking at is called The Noise. Pete has said reminds him of a Cure track. It does have a bit of the lullaby about it at first listen, but it’s much more than that. There are layers. Synth bits, an ending/second half that is far more twisted (does that sound right? Is it twisted? It’s not the same as the first part that’s for sure) than the first. The drums all work really on this track. It’s spiky but supple at the same time. I feel it lends itself to electronic drums well and the end result sounds clean and considered.

This song started as an idea demo’d by Rob. I believe there was one verse and the basic chord sequence. The ending is a result of jamming out for a few minutes (maybe more than a few minutes) and then chopping it back down in the edit. Although I think we kept everything in the end and moved the order of some parts around a bit. The vocals for part one were worked out and written down, and for the jam bit at the end I just improvised some words I had from the ideas folder. We added a lo-fi type of effect to them to give it a distinction from the first part. The lead guitar pops and darts around and takes the the song to its end without it ever sounding repetitive or laboured. Bass, as usual, is right were it should be giving the song a strong back bone.

Again, it’s quite a long song. Maybe this is a product of the ‘record what we come up with and worry about setting it in order later’ method of writing. I think it did open up a new way of playing, a freedom, and I think the the songs all reflect this.

The voyage continues…

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontNext on the list of tracks to talk about, The Oyster. A bit of an odd ball this one. A bit rocky. A little funky. Some unusual vocal frills. Lovely bass riffing that pushes the track along with a guitar track that can do no wrong. I can’t imagine any part of this different to how it is. Everything fits nice and snug, just like it should and at a shade over five minutes it’s a good length. Not quite sure where the idea came from originally, I think it started from a jam? Maybe the other parts of HMD can help out with that. The over all concept, from a lyric perspective, is of a life lived, but not loved.(Feeling indebted to the queen/her/she above). A life of normality and function, but not of adventure or fulfilment. (I found the oyster, but not the pearl) An existence of conforming to what you feel is expected, but not showing who you really are. (I am faking a little longer. I fake myself to pass through unaware).

Why do a lot of my lyrics turn out to be downers? (Challenge for next album, 100% bunnies and sugar?)

I think the drums work quite well in this track. Although it has a bit of funk about it, the electronic drums don’t detract from the feel and everything comes across as being fluid. I’d have to agree with something both Rob and Pete have picked up on in the past week, that this album as a whole feels like musical progression of the last. It’s the third album from HMD and in listening to this and the first back to back I can see the development. Flesh Reunion glued both together perfectly. Also, as a side note, I managed to get all the electric guitars I own on a least one track on the album. RESULT! (Now that should be a challange! Each of us has to get each instrument on at least one track in the future. Might be easier from some than others. Just remembered the drum kit. Damn!)

So very very close…

SpaceCowboysUnderTheSeaOfJapan_Booklet_300_FrontIt’s nearly time to share the fruits of our labour. The songs we have written. The music we have played. The mistakes and bum notes we’ve recorded. (Find them if you can, like a musical where’s Wally.)

Looking back its quite a mixed bag of songs. Different styles and different approaches. Different influences and different time signatures.  (Sorry. I blame Pete and his prog influence.) Lets look back at the tracks in no particular order, but starting with the first one we commuted to digitalness, Village of Dolls.

How many bass parts is there here? I’m pretty sure we all played at least one. We started writing this based on a news article Rob brought in about a village in Japan where the population had decreased so much that a resident had started to make dolls to replace the people. Simple enough ideas and abstract at the same time (I doubt it would’ve gotten Mr Cowell’s approval). I think this came together pretty quick. We didn’t come up with a structure of parts and instruments and we just chucked stuff at the mic to see what held. The result I think is a little unusual. Starts busy and full and reduces in complexity towards the end. Not a shouty loud song but one that teases you along till the end finally comes. It certainly gave us something to build upon through the coming weeks and inspired us to carry on the ‘hot pot’ approach of writing on the fly for a few tracks. A lovely start to recording Space Cowboys Under the Sea of Japan.