Between The Beautifuls

Between The Beautifuls



all the trees are hers… walking through the woods one day… a friend and i wondered if the trees were male or female. it was spring and the day was gushing and delicious. it was agreed then that they were hers.

alone here (ballad of bunches of things)… i actually tried to finish this song for treeful of starling. it never clicked then. i rarely keep songs on the back burner. i usually figure that if a song doesn’t wish to be born it’ll fight to be forgotten. but there was something lovely about the idea of animals gathering and loneliness. there were so many more wonderful names for groups of animals… parliaments of owls and prides of lions and such… i could have lost myself in writing verses for this tune.

it’s not me… this song too, came from a couple of years ago. i wrote it in a time of feeling lost to myself. in loathing and self
destruction. when i finally recorded it in may, i was far from the place i was when i had written it. it doesn’t always hurt to visit these times as a reminder of where you’ve been and how low it’s possible to go.


no stillness and no rain… in my long love affair with the weather, i wrote this down watching an undecided sky. i remember it
being grey and my surroundings were twisting in imperceptible ways. it’s like when the earth seems out of step with time. it feels like that more these days than i remember. i remember bob ezrin telling me he thought this was the worst song i had ever written. i still really like it though.

oh you delicate heart… i wrote this as a gift to a friend. i had been listening to a mazzy star song on repeat for weeks. i wanted to create something that waved as if living in water. these are tough times to be open and feeling. the world seems ready to tread upon any delicate soul. it’s hard to stay positive and eager to love. hard too to believe in light when it feels like there are only fleeting glimpses of it these days.

piano blink… i wrote this song the day i arrived in los
angeles from paris. i had been living a bit destructively during my month or so in europe. on the flight over i prepared myself to be clear and focussed. i went to cherokee studio directly from the LAX. i had planned a 10 day writing trip with my good friend and musical brother, doc. i was exhausted but he insisted we write something before i went to bed… and this was it. los angeles always makes me feel fiery and creative. it was also a nice warm break from european coastal winter.

pomegranate daffodil… this was the last song i wrote for the record. a friend of mine was dissecting and photographing fruits and vegetables for horticultural studies. the photos were sexy and bursting. it was spring and the smell of mud waking up from a long winter sleep always makes me randy to write. sometimes too, i can get caught up worrying about things and forget to live in the moments… i wrote the outro section as a reminder to myself.

prettier face… a darker lament about destruction and stumbling. i wrote this in LA too, where dirt under the fingernails seems easier to see and harder to forget.

september lily… i wrote this song in the last apartment i kept in toronto. the apartment where i recorded the better part of treeful of starling. somtimes lovely words just get more delicious when you put them side by side. september and lily are that for me. also the blatent contradicting forces of autumn and spring. a love song and lament of feeling inadequate and in need. sometimes the truth of sadness is hard to believe. it stains the eye.

the city is a drag… i don’t remember when i wrote this. but for a while i had a feeling that toronto would conspire against me when i’d return there after a long tme away. despite my love for that city, i would get all manner parking fines, creatures living in my apartment, neighbours shutting my early morning writing sessions down with graceless hammering on my door. i think too there is something in here about turning into an adult… you could probably swap ‘city’ for ‘adult’ too.

what would you say to me, lord?… in a wonderfully lucid moment i sat down at an old upright piano i had just bought and wrote this song in about 15 minutes. instruments are funny things. they live and breathe. the give and respond. this song was clearly meant to indicate the great future i was going to have with this instrument. i also think this is one my best recorded drum performances (i know that is pretty nerdy to say)… this tempo and feel just lives in my hands and i could play this feel forever…

bonus: piano blink (los manlicious mix)… this version is the pretty much how the original track sounded when it went down in los angeles. doc cooked up a delicious feel and chord vibe… the melody fell out… we loved it. i really felt alive during those sessions.

Los Manlicious

Los Manlicious



when you gonna flower – john southworth used to come over to my apartment overlooking the DVP on weekday mornings… he and i would goof around and write pure pop ditties… he came one morning with the idea for this song and it was fleshed out in a matter of minutes. it has taken many shapes and forms before settling into the version that appears on the record… but there must be at least 3 or 4 others kicking around.

is this what you call love? – when i left the desert, i went to LA to work for a day or two with doc. he has a way with bringing the best out of me. we knocked this tune out at jim henson studios across the hall from randy jackson’s studio. los angeles always fills me with excitment and vigour. after the success of this writing session i would return a year later to write the bulk of this record with him.

girls on crutches – doc and i took over studio B at cherokee studios around beverly and fairfax. it was one of the last great LA studios still operating at the time. michael jackson to tom petty to queens of the stone age who moved in after us. we kept a nice, tight daily routine of writing and trips to whole foods for snacks and medicinal juices. doc would cook up a groove and i would banter lyrics and melody until we had a song. this one fell out and we thought it had something.

kissing girls (you shouldn’t kiss) – i had had the idea for this song for a while, john was instrumental in helping me get it out. it’s pretty obvious i think… but on the backdrop of dark, apocalyptic thinking.


it’s a drug – i wrote this in the desert during the writing for treeful of starling. i think the ‘sort-of-sexiness’ is propped up by the guitar lick wyatt burton brought to this tune.

in my blood – while doc struggled to make a old guitar amp work, I played the drums and the tape was rolling… the modulating, gutteral repeating lick is the sound of the amp giving up the ghost. i thought it was the coolest thing i had ever heard. we looped it and i rapped a dark little tale of dust and decay. i had come to these sessions from europe and somehow was looking at los angeles, in part, with the european sense of mythical wonder… the real dirty, hollywood. I drove home from the studio that night and heard the most incredible mariachi music. i never figured out what it was but i can still remember how bizarre and inventive it sounded. it reminded me of playing bass with a mariachi band in chicago 1997 for a union convention. they all had the full outfits with pagers on their belts.

lonely people – doc was strumming something in the studio on the last day of writing sessions. i had pretty much resigned to taking the day off. there was a bit of magic in what he had started to cook up. he and i are both dedicated fans of richard butler and the psychedelic furs. this was my attempt at writing ‘heaven’.

piano blink – i had just got off the plane from paris. i was completely exhausted and just wanted to go to bed. doc insisted we get something done before calling it a day… this was the first thing we did together.

the city is a drag – this song was written for a record that is still sitting unfinished. i wrote it on the piano in the upstairs lounge at blue rodeo’s studio near the danforth in toronto.

in the bedroom in the daytime – doc and i sat with two cheap guitars and drum machine. i told him we should write the easiest little pop tune… something with ooo’s and a kooky boy/girly lyric.

prettier face – doc would kick me out of the studio as he built the grooves and textures for me to sing and write lyrics over. it’s resembles more the way a rapper works with a producer. i would come later with a coffee and sandwiches and he would reveal what he had built for me. the lyric came very easily. the feel of the track just spoke to me.

oh you delicate heart – i wrote this as a birthday gift for a friend. this is the original drum part.

fatty wants to dance – having just come from europe i wanted to bring some straight euro-techno to our writing sessions in LA. doc was very reluctant. i had had this lyric kicking around for a while. i was always the “husky” kid in class and was always very self conscious about my body. i think that one of the big reasons i was so taken by michael jackson when i was a kid was his obvious connection to his body and his effortless dance moves. i always wanted to be able to dance like him. i used to write in my grade 3 school journal that i was going to be a dancer someday. i would bring drumsticks to school dances and ‘air-drum’ in the corner.

h.

For Him And The Girls

For Him And The Girls



“Maniacs”… i was feeling certain insanities very closely. i would practice walking blind folded in the cemetery. i was shredding beets and roasting dandelion root. some songs were properly written, others were composed on the drum set… this one started from there… my uncle Ed taught me to yodel when i was very young. he was a cowboy and a custom saddle maker and tuned his guitar to sound like the bagpipes. the day i recorded this song the toronto skies were full of hail and lightening.

“No Sissies”… most of my teen years were filled with dedicated practice and focus. i missed some life lessons. in my early years in toronto, i lived in some questionable conditions. i was rescued like a dog from a rat’s nest by a woman who wouldn’t step near my apartment. her kindness came at a price.

“Sad House Daddy”… i had a piano squeezed into my little basement spot. the soundboard had cracked and i had made ‘make-do’ repairs to it by stuffing clothes against the cracks to stop it from resonating so horribly. i thought i’d write this little cabaret song about begging god to see my side of the story.

“Tarantulove”… the neighbour’s upstairs sex life was taking off when mine was getting dryer and dryer… i wrote this on a long walk north on yonge street to my studio. most of the songs on for him and the girls were written while washing dishes… this one seemed to come out of a persistent pace up hill and along stream…


“Sweet Hallelujah”… my parents had my brother and i when they were very young. i think they figured they should start taking us to church… what a fortunate thing too… luckily we went to a backwoods church with a passionate choir leader who would lead the congregation in the singing of the old american folk hymns… like “church in the wild wood”, and “go tell it on the mountain”… i learned so much from those sing alongs… i always wanted to create songs like those i loved so much when i was a kid… and this was it. the word hallelujah is huge and lovely. it’s funny in our growing secularized landscape that i received some criticism at the time for plagiarizing leonard cohen for the use of that word… i always thought that was funny.

“Bullets”… my grandpa was complicated and quiet. in the years before he died i urged him to speak of his time in the second war… he always refused and and shrugged off most questioning. he often suggested that if i wanted to learn about the war, i should read pierre burton. this song summed up his tough guy sense of humour and the mysteries that died along with him.

“Don’t Be Crushed”… i was seeing a girl with a piano. she went to new york and i wrote this on her piano as the sun shined through tobacco stained curtains.

“Stop Joking Around”… there was a time when i was a kid that i would cry easily. then for years i didn’t cry at all. i always felt the world really close to my bones… i grew up in a very joking household… and somedays… i just wanted some time to let my darkness have its say.

“All of Us Kids”… i always felt that government and convention and lethargy and the unwillingness of men to grow would be our undoing…around this time clinton was bombing yugoslavia… i’ve always wondered about the pain of prosecution for not following the rules. it surprises me that humans still govern themselves the way they do.

“Safe and Sound”… one night, i quietly wrote, what i wanted to be, the quintessential driving song… it’s turned into a rather popular song for weddings…

“Paper Shoes”… in those years in toronto, i was desperate to find pianos to write on. i would sneak into the university, and into vacant hotel ballrooms… but then i realized that if i joined churches for long enough i could probably use their pianos through the week… i was very much alone back in those days… and sexuality became something that i thought i could poke at and mold… i felt huge in my own environs but tiny in the wind… i wrote this around 7:30 am in the basement of the united church around the corner from where i was living.

“Baby This Night”… i always have visions of dying at the hands of a follower. and to rage for your beliefs is to call attention to your difference… to kiss your lover for the last time before being hung in the square because of your honest belief in freedom and peace.

“No More Named Johnny”… i was in the tub, and realized that the name “johnny” had been pretty much used up to its end as the go to name in rock and roll… i wanted to make the definitive anti-johnny song… that would celebrate and destroy the name leaving room for other names to be used in pop songs like paul, and henry.

“Beautiful and Natural”… new years eve 1998… i watched ‘the 7th seal’… it was stark and brooding. the thing that struck me most, however, were all of the animals in the movie… and how they were all likely dead now… and how they were caught on film and immortalized for just being themselves… and how the actors too were likely dead, but caught on film trying to be somebody else… i thought there was magnificent sadness in that.