Behind the songs

On peregrine wings

I was really in the midst of writing some ideas down about the animated sci-fi series I’ve been working on with Ned Evett called Crystal Planet. It’s got a lot of strange creatures flying around and I was thinking “this is a piece of music that would represent somebody who suddenty had wings”.

I wasn’t quite sure where they got this wings, if they grew on or put them on, something like that. But I thought “what would feel like that very first time you had this wings and you had to basically jump off a cliff and start flying?” The key was the unusual scale and intense velocity of the drums beat, and of course that solo section being a complete freak out, all sort of a add study, energy that think it would feel just compelling acceleration from flying for the very first time. I think I re-did the main guitar more than any other song on the record, because I’d settle on it and think “this is really great” and then 3 weeks I say “no this is horrible I’ve got to do it again”, I think that’s one of the last thing I’ve recorded on the album, that main guitar because I just just looking for that sort of wild slighlty out of countrol sound.

Shockwave Supernova

I think the title track « Shockwave Supernova » was a bit of a mass in terms of the quality of the demo, it was a heavy sort of cut and paste special “Joe-job” you know. It’s just crazy, it was one of those afternoon where I was writing and I kept on having those great ideas and I couldn’t slow myself down enough to really perfect them, I was so afraid that I forget them, the vibe would somehow escape as I got better and better at the proficiency of the part. So I just recorded each idea first pass and I would cut and paste and arrange the song until I thought it was as fun to listen as possible.

I even think how difficult is going to be to record, and the first step was presenting to the guys and I had to tell Marco like “I know it sound like this part doesn’t belong to that part but I’m counting on you to freak out.” I said “everytime I stop there’s no drums but actually I want you to give me crazy fills daoes sound like you just having a great time, not paying attention to the guitare player you know.” That’s an odd direction to give somebody. Bryan‘s job of course was to somehow get to the begining of the song all the way to the end as if he felt they were none of these stops and/or interruptions or changes in the groove he had to kind of unify the groove. Mike actually was playing something else, all the way through the tracking of the song and then when it was over I said “I want you to do something literally different, I want you to play like a honky-tonk piano kind of thing on top.

It was just like crazy free association at that point when we were doing the overdubs, but it kept going because by the time we get to 25th Street to do the overdubs I was all set to play a 6 string guitar like this and John Cuniberti said “you know I really like the way you play slide, I’d like you to play slide on the whole thing” and I definitively wasn’t prepared for that, it was just something I did that one afternoon, played a little bit and then copied and pasted it so but what I wanted to do right here in the spot was to really come up with a really great slide on electric 12 strings part and figure out how I was going to get get all those harmonies to work on these 2 guitars that actually were not set up to play very well. We had had a great time piecing it all together but I think through John’s proding it elevated my slide playing quite a bit.

If there is no heaven

When I’ve started writing « If There Is No Heaven » I thought “well this is a very heavy subject. It’s going to make people think about what they’re really believe in.” The song is really about what happens if we all die and get out there, in the out of reaches of conciousness and we realise there is no heaven, there is no other place to go.

The chord sequence is actually very sad, it sort of drawns on and it’s very simple and I kept the structure just three steps, that’s what I kept think to myself, just three simple steps, not a million chords and then try to create a guitar performance that starts the song an go all the way through, as if it were giving voice to some really deep soul searching. But I knew when I get to heavy to the band, I just kept thinking, make sure it’s really charging, and there’s a lot of energy to it. I think that allowed Marco to give a very tight but driving performance ttht didn’t led out, where the energy kept going.

When I told the story to John Cuniberti, he had the idea to create a sound that would be the sound of the void, the one where you never want to be in. And one day in the studio I went out with a friend’s 59 Chet Atkins guitar and played some chords and John manipulated and played them backwars and create that whole intro and outro that give you sort of the heartbreak of the song, the truc trouble behind the soul searching. But the song itself I think represents the fact that life is still very exciting: we’re here, let’s live now.

San Francisco Blue

Well « San Francisco Blue » has quite a few funny stories around it. I gets its start really in San Francisco on a break from the Unstoppable tour. I’im in home, I’m sick, I can’t be much be sitting around of my guitarand I find myself in one of those blue moods, sit down with the guitar. I just happen to be in my son’s old music room that he has painted blue when he was in high school, and he just sort of came out of me one day and I play this super-melodic shuffle kind of thing in this blue room and I’m feeling blue so I just called it « San Francisco Blue ».

When I finished I did a demo and I though “this is going to be great, wildy Marco here, he’s going to kill me!” Because it was sort of like a running joke on tour where he was always get asked to jam with people and inevitabely they would ask him to do a shuffle and he get stuck playing a shuffle when people soloed endlessly over some blue songs. It was just something it was never really part of his nature you know, he’s far more than a shuffle drummer. But I was conviced after couple times on tour during soundchecks when we’ve been flowing around with some jazz or blues, he was actually really good at it, I just you had to trick him into it and that’s basically what I did, I brought the song and then I said “I know you thinking I’m doing this on purpose, and in a way I am, but I am convinced that you can do something that is sort of roots oriented but something totally new that only you can do because when you’ve come from and the kind of music you play.” His performance just put a smile on my face, that was just so perfect with the guitars and that whole day the session had this whole smiling, we were in a really great mood.

Behind the album

Episode 1: Behind The Album

Episode 2: Mike, Marco & Bryan

Episode 3: The demos

Episode 4: The writing

Episode 5: Overdubs, mixing & mastering