Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Get Killed or Die Trying Update

If anyone is still reading this, I hope you'll allow me a break from the half-baked thoughts on movies to engage in some half-baked thoughts on a subject that has more or less hovered at the outskirts of my life for - basically - about 8 years. My record is actually coming along. I know, I know, this sounds familiar. But I mean "coming along" as in, you can download the first song on the record right now and listen to it and (hopefully) drop me a line and share your thoughts.

Download "Long Distance" at ZShare.

This post may be a bit more for my own benefit than anything else, but I need to do a gut check and think about where this stands right now, anyway. Yesterday afternoon, I booked a couple of hours with Soundworkz recording studio in downtown Shreveport, it's a kind of mom-and-pop style recording studio that is absolutely, positively spectacular. I couldn't afford it money-wise and had to take $100 out of my savings, but in the end I was so glad that I did. I've had such a hard time getting songs to sound right while recording them with friends, through no fault of anyone's. I've tried to record this album with at least a half dozen people, all with disappointing results. I just wanted to get behind a Pro Tools set-up, with a hard-core, professional engineer, and give it 110% of my best effort - not only in the recording stage but in the mixing stage, which I have a habit of zoning out during.

Anyway, the gamble paid off - I had an amazing time working with Jason, the engineer, who obviously cared for my song as though it were his own creation. He's more into rock music, which has been a problem with engineers in the past - I literally had a Bossier City-based engineer who i was paying $35/hour to track my vocals walk out and make a sandwich while I was recording. Of course, that dude also wore white daisy dukes and no shirt. Sammy Williams knows what I am talking about. The resulting song from the Soundworkz session is "Long Distance," which you can download and check out for yourself. This is how "Get Killed or Die Trying" will sound. The beat for "Long Distance" was produced by my friend and producer T-Swift from Houston, check his phenomenal songs on Myspace.

I take the act of creating anything way, way too seriously - so seriously that sometimes it paralyzes me to the point that I just lock up (anyone read my short story collection lately? Yeah, didn't think so...). But making a rap record is, to me, an act so surrounded by various sociological concerns and factors, it may be the hardest process I have undertaken to date. Rap music changed my life. Keep in mind that when I was fourteen, I bought Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us back" from a Circle K and listened to it on repeat for the duration of a 13-hour car ride. Literally the first rap album I ever heard was arguably the greatest rap album ever made. It also taught me that pop culture could take on societal issues, and it gave me my first non-white role model. This was all happening in like '94, at the height of the anti-gangsta rap furor in the media. All I heard about was how ignorant and hateful this music was.

I'm aware that, being a white kid, a welder's son, a kid growing up in a very racist community, loving rap gave me a way to be different. I'm aware of all the complicated issues that brings up.
Looking back on it, falling in love with Public Enemy at 14 may have been one of the formative acts of my life. It set off a domino effect interest in media and culture that ended with my applying to Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, and put me on my life's path. Anyway, rap matters to me like a family member. And so when I see the state it is in today, I don't like what I see. Money, money, money. But at the same time, I understand that in a capitalist society with deeply entrenched, systemic racism, a young black man throwing stacks of money around in a video is political. So I see the value of Lil' Jon, 50 Cent, the mainstream...50 Cent basically IS Interscope Records. 10 years ago that would have been difficult to imagine, for a black man to control a mainstream media empire. The same is true of Jay-Z. So I see both sides. I don't feel at home in either the underground or the mainstream. Both sides just look silly to me.

So what do i want this record to be? When I'm standing there at the microphone, recording words that will be etched into vinyl plates and plastic CD's, that may end up in flea markets, in record crates, etc. long after I am gone from this world?

What do i want this to be?

Honest is the first word that comes to mind. This is the first song on the album's tracklisting and in the first 30 seconds I have said "I'm a one-woman man." The glorification of sexual conquests in both mainstream and underground rap disgusts me. A male has a lot of sex, he's a player and gets the high fives. A female does the same thing, she's a chicken head or a slut. Does this make sense to anyone? At all?

Honesty. "Just finish the drink, drive home, spank, come in hand." It happens.

Honesty. I wrote a song about being in love with someone I can't see, someone I can't touch. Learning to see that my mistrust of her, my jealousy of others who spend time with her, was just thinly-veiled self-loathing looking for another opportunity to manifest itself.


I'm writing a song right now called "Go Ask Dracula" that is an honest-to-God look at what I'm pretty sure is a latent case of manic depression. Circumstances created it, the loneliness of recent months. It's like I got bitten by a vampire, now I sit around in dark rooms (case in point, right now) to the point that I feel completely removed from the rank and file humanity. Last night I slept about three hours, and on a bad week, that's about average. So "Go Ask Dracula" is on deck. I want these songs to be hard to create. I want it to kind of hurt to hear them. "Long Distance" did hurt to hear. That was probably the truest shit I ever said to a mic. I hope that statement is only true until i record the next song.

Anyway, sorry for the rant...uhmmmm...get crunk!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Just because your dad tried to eat you, does that mean we all have to be unhappy forever?!"

I recently saw the Canadian zombie comedy (peep the awesomeness of those three words strung together in order), "Fido." People, this is the funniest movie I have seen in 2007. Seriously, I did not stop laughing the entire time. The zombie horror genre is perhaps the greatest horror sub-genre, in my opinion, because it has so much potential for social commentary ("Dawn of the Dead" being the most obvious example of critique-of-American-consumerism-as-represented-by-zombies), and "Fido" manages to touch on materialism, sexism, racism, necrophilia, slavery, facism, the homogenization of culture, the military-industrial name a topic, "Fido" rambles towards it and eats its brains.

"Fido" is a zombie horror set in the idyllic 1950's. It's basically what would happen if zombies invaded an episode of "Lassie." The music, the wardrobes, the sets, the cars and poodle skirts - everything is a hilarious 1950's stereotype. Until the zombies arrive. So doughy-white 50's television is the main point of reference, but a more subtle reference is the cinema of Douglas Sirk , films like "Written on the Wind" and "All That Heaven Allows," heavy melodramas that made "the neighbors" less a friendly, benign presence than a possibly intrusive, looming, unseen evil, more a part of the atmosphere than a part of a harmless social circle.

But the social commentary doesn't override the laugh-out-loud comedy. I literally laughed out loud throughout the entire film, despite the fact that the film (repeatedly) breaks Hollywood's last remaining taboo - a lot of innocent children die on-screen, which you still don't see a lot of these days in film. Kids also have to kill zombies, sometimes even the zombie forms of adults they knew in life. There's a great moment where a teacher asks a classroom "So how many of you kids have ever had to kill a zombie?" About half of the kids raise their hands, and the teacher sighs and says "Okay...not that many of you."

Basically, if you're a zombie horror fan, see this movie as soon as humanly possible. No societal convention is safe from its hunger.