Well everyone, I'm getting to the end of my degree, which means that it's soon time to get home and really get steaming with Cold Megan.
First of all, I'll be getting myself sorted out back home. A computer fix/upgrade; a new workstation and perhaps a set of monitors. Then we can get cooking and recording. I'm happy because we'll actually have some time to get the arrangements and drum sound right this year. All the problems with Katzengesang will get fixed. Because I'm too much of a perfectionist, we'll also be re-recording the album down the line. But not for a while, because I want to finish the two or three records I've been working on in the past couple of years and record those first.
After that, we'll hopefully be drafting people in to form a live unit, and we'll be playing some small gigs around the Southeast. This won't exactly be a serious endeavour, but we should be able to shift a few records, have some fun, and most importantly, piss off the punters. In terms of musicians, we have a few possible leads, but we're also still very perturbed. We had some interest from potential singers, but no bass players. So if you're a bass player in SE England, please get in touch. That said, we just about have the geography to reform the classic era Trash Kittens, too. I doubt it'd happen though, but it is a remote possibility. If nothing else, it'd be nice to do a gig or some recordings with them.
I'm not sure what I'll be doing with myself career-wise, but I should imagine that I'll either be completely out of employment or working part time, dedicating the rest of my life to music. So it's up to the public to buy lots of Cold Megan albums. We'll be establishing a paypal system to take the confusion out of it all. And maybe getting records properly pressed, too, as numerous people have complained about my primitive sketches of kittens on CDRs. Properly pressed CD's would f*cking kick, especially as Stiv has been doing some new artwork. DIY or die, etc etc. Sadly, we'd need a fair amount of money just to get a batch done, so that will probably take a while also to get enough interest to fill the quota and actually ensure we sell any. But hey!
Over Easter, me and Stiv might be jamming out some Misfits songs with a mutual friend, which will be nice. I'll also be installing a new nut and some sperzel machineheads on my guitar. Once the tuning is stable, I can get working on improving my playing.
Finally, the Cold Megan documentary will be recorded on April 20th, please wish me luck as it'll be quite hectic.
I'll try and update every month from here on out, too. Let's hope there'll be some stuff to write about.
With Katzengesang now truly finished, I figured I should write another chapter to this story, a story of which I have deleted most of, for fucknows what reason.
Writing this does have a sense of ambivalence to it, because in some ways I feel dissatisfied by the finished article.
1.) The drum sound wasn't fixable, even after careful tweaking it just sounds like a kid hitting a cardboard box with a twix.
2.) I assumed that the finished Katzengesang would give me a clear picture of where to move towards, in other words, how to tie in the old punk songs to the newer, more progressive-influenced ones. Problem is: i.) I can't view the album as an outsider, and therefore don't have a clear perception of it. ii.) Recent works aren't thematically linked; contigent or congruous, which of course translates to 'bits of pieces here and there', not what one wants on a followup.
Where do we go with this?
But not to worry, some things went according to plan.
1.) It's a solid album, especially considering as I wrote a most of the songs when I was 15/16.
2.) It's confirmed my belief that we're a marmite band. Sure, a lot of people don't 'get' it, but similarly, people that got it got it in a big way, and blasted the thing on repeat. And that's fine, I love being esoteric.
3.) As awful as my vocal was, I actually did a swell job at it, in one take as well. And the sustained vocal section at the end of Inquisition - sublime!
4.) It's not that big a deal that I'm confused about where to go, it's not like we even have a full lineup - which essentially means that we're running on 1/3 of the creative input.
And that's the end of an era. In some ways I feel calm and accomplished, but in others I feel even more ill at ease.
After months of rehearsals (not literally months, but we've rehearsed several times over those months), no less than five complete sets of demo recordings, repeated playback and in depth analysis of the demos, we're finally laying down the drum track for the Katzengesang album. Bareback Wallace is definitely a better drummer than Alan Fister, although he is more assertive, although that's probably a good thing.
The pressure is on, because this in all probability is going to be the single most important day of my life. And probably the highlight of it, too.
The arrangements and drum tracks have come a long way, but I'm still extremely worried about how the vocals are going to come out.
We're even doing a photo shoot like little indie cunts, complete with Che Guevara hats and desert scarves.
'Raping the Dead' is now called 'Ploughing the Dead'. Not because I'm selling out, but because it's darker and less comedic, in line with the tracks. It's more subversive, too, which is awesome. It's the last song we added to the lineup, but it's got great energy and Stiv more or less nailed it first time.
There's not going to be a guitar solo in "Cat Nip". We've been having trouble with this one. It's either too fast and messy, or it's long and drawn out. But it's probably the closest thing we've got to a bubblegum pop single, which the unwashed cunts will like, so it needs to be good on the day. I'm quite worried. But I reckon the vocals will probably be OK on that one, if a bit whiny.
I had a go doing the massive organ song in "R.I.T." It sounds apocalyptic, huge and overblown, as planned. Riot always sounds good, so I'm completely confident. And I substitute swearwords for even more offensive rhyming slang. Wait and see.
To be honest, it's the overdubs that are going to be tricky. Some of the guitar solos will need a lot of practice. I STILL can't play the f*cking riff to 'Skullworms' from cold. Skullworms usually sounds good. It's a good song, but I'm worried that it'll be overshadowed by some of the others, which are way better.
The guitar solo in 'Inquisition' is quite tricky to play at breakneck speed, as the licks really meander. A bit of a mindfuck. Inquisition sounds great, in terms of playing it's faultless. It's pretty offensive though, but who cares, it's punk, innit.
I'm looking forward to our cover of Eleanor Rigby. As I informed an initially unenthusiastic BB Wallace, you can't make a classic record if you don't wreck a Beatles song. Probably not true, but who gives a fuck.
A song for sexual deviants, the misogynistic 'Lights Out', is sure to offend mainly feminists. Good. It sounded shaky a while ago, but it's a good track now. I feel a bit guilty because it's three descending chords a tone apart over and over again, but I suppose the lyrics and searing guitar will add some substance. Plus, it's a trash kittens song, who were about as inept as a nun giving a hummer. You should embrace your roots, even if they are a bit shit. Oh yeah, and as a treat to all you deadheads plus one, we're doing the controversial "get me pregnant with aids, black man" verse originally banned by TK frontman Ditchy T.
I see Kitten Without A Home as a bit of a trump card. It's the song that embodies the Trash Kittens, and it's very special. It comes faithful to the original demo, complete with the best guitar solo one could ever hope to play in lieu of the second chorus, heart rending vocals (I fucking roar on this one, once I broke down into tears playing an acoustic version!), and a chord substitution that sends shivers down the spine. I'd love to be able to play a Piano track with thick chords, but sadly I don't have the aptitude to pull that off - or the time to learn.
Scissorhands has been a problem throughout rehearsals, but last time we really nailed it in a big way. It's one of those songs that really comes to life when you get it at just the right speed. I am quite ashamed how similar it is to the Dolls' subway train, although on later realisation I did absolve the guilt by making this clear. The String part is going to go I-IV-V, really quietly from the second verse. It'll sound like you died and went to a slightly discordant heaven. But that's much more interesting, right kids? The fucking song's about imperfection and failure anyway.
Oi! Ruling Man is probably the weakest song on the album, but it's got great energy. And the political lyrics are still relevant, give or take a few tweaks. It's definitely very different to the song I wrote, which was originally a Billy Bragg style acoustic number.
Finally, included on the album is a special version of "More Tea, Gloria?". It really recieved great feedback, thank you. What better way to repay kindness than to record a version in the style of the Katzengesang album?Watch out for the Catholic Dark Age vocal melodies, Rocking guitar solo and European feel.
Finally, I've been instructed to write a column for UG about the experience. And for the extra plays it'll generate. Why not? I can't do any worse than that f*cking Tom Hess, can I?
And that's it, my friends, The pressure is on. I just pray I'm up to it.
(That's been my signature introduction for years, but I still have no idea what it means!)
Whilst waiting for the Katzengesang session to continue, I've been having a play around with many aspects of music.
First, comes the technical guitar playing. I've been putting in ~3 hours a day recently, just playing along to simple stuff like the Katzengesang songs and the Dead Kennedys. Both are really good things to play along to, because the playing itself is fun and interesting, and are good practice for getting tight. There are plenty of open strings to mute, difficult bends and awkward passages that are hard to pull off from cold. It's really quite a challenge to sing and play like that.
I still can't quite nail the tremolo picking solo of moon over marin. Those 4 bars have eluded me for 4 many years! I either seem to get the picking angle wrong for the solo, or get the phrasing wrong. It's stupid. Anyone in their right mind should be able to play that like Ray does, but for some reason I just can't do it.
I've spent two months going back over almost everything I've ever played or written, fine combing through with a toothpick and correcting poor technique. I'm definitely sounding tighter, but I do still sound extremely sloppy. But hey, that's the problem with becoming an audiophile and music analyst; you find yourself developing insatiable standards.
I restrung and set up the Les Paul today, which obviously puts your intonation out temporarily. The frets are really starting to look well used, but the thing's only a year old. Never mind, I'll just have to raise and raise the action until I can get a refret next summer.
I'm using a shallower neck relief, which is making vibrato on the treble strings a bit of a cunt. I'm also having a problem just fretting notes with my ring figer, the strings are getting lost in my flesh because I sanded down my impressive callus (..!)
I've become a bit of a nerd, because I spend at least an hour with my MP3 player listening to various stages of the Katengesang rehearsals and making notes. Doing this has given me a much clearer idea of what I want the record to sound like (the inherent Skulf "blue" ness I've always had, with a hint of fiery crimson from the live drums). I also, of course, know what needs improving and such.
The solos are mostly written now. This is unusual, because whenever I've made demos and recordings before I've largely improvised any lead parts. Sometimes I've had an adrenaline rush, and have needed a few weeks of practice to be able to play the solo I've laid down.
If that wasn't eventually achievable with practice, it would be a good example of human transcendence.
So far, my mental picture of the Sherlock Album is that of a much more dynamic, three dimensional record. Time shall tell.