Sleeper: track by track

As I discussed in the Introduction, the origin of this album can be traced back to my trip to South America in 2013. After my journey with Ayahuasca in Peru, I continued backpacking around Peru and Brazil for several more weeks. Writing songs on Rio’s Copacabana Beach is not nearly as romantic as it might sound – it’s bloody HOT, for one thing, and songwriting can be a very solitary exercise and does not afford a lot of interaction with other people.

01 – Blue Sky [ft. Kelly Jones]

This track actually predates my first album, Time Machine. It was never considered for that album because I had ambitious production ideas for the song that had not yet solidified, so I sat on it until I was ready to do it justice. It was originally written from a male perspective, but as I started recording it, it became apparent that no one other than Kelly Jones should be singing it, so a quick lyric change was all that was needed.

The lyrics are ideal as the opening track of the album, inviting the listener to come daydream.

02 – Something’s Happening [ft. Linus of Hollywood]

Written on a terribly out of tune piano while house-sitting at a friend’s house in Sydney. Somehow, these specific notes just stood out where they probably would not have on any other piano. While recording the temp vocals, I sang it roughly imitating Linus’ vocal style – there was never any question who was going sing it.

The lyrics are about that feeling you get when you’re out partying with friends, generally while also under the influence of one thing or another, that THIS particular time and place is the most magical and special thing happening on the planet right now.

03 – Anyway How

An instrumental piece, originally intended as the opening for the next track, Any Day Now. They share the same tempo, the same chords, they even share some production elements. However during recording it got longer and longer and just took on a life of its own, but it is still meant to always be heard in conjunction with Any Day Now.

04 – Any Day Now [ft. Steve Eggers]

Another older track, which was actually rejected from the Time Machine sessions. Had it been recorded then, I think it might have ended up being quite ordinary, or even less so, plus the lyrics were also deliberately simplistic. I believed that so strongly that when I recorded it I may have over-compensated by throwing everything including the kitchen sink into this mix. If you listen closely, near the end, you’ll even hear a woman walking through a large house on a wooden floor then out into the driveway. Despite the nondescript lyrical subject matter, I decided to keep the song for the album because the arrangement was quite similar to the other songs and it fit in nicely.

Linus of Hollywood also turned in a blazing guitar solo. I asked him to record it on electric and acoustic because I hadn’t yet decided which take I’d want, so when he delivered the takes they were note for note exactly the same, so I mixed them so that they would continuously morph from acoustic to electric and back throughout, making it impossible to discern what kind of guitar it is.

05 – I Don’t Know You [ft. Wyatt Funderburk]

This song was a real challenge to finish. The music had been completed for quite some time, and I’d struggled with the lyrics for several years, never satisfied with it. As an exercise while in Brazil, I decided to start over and write the lyrics from the last line, up the page to the first line. As I wrote the last line, I had no idea what the song would be about, so I kept writing until I had the final verse, then I wrote the chorus and the bridge, then up to the first verse – the very first line of the song was literally the last line I wrote.

The loopy ending came about while listening back to the completed song while stoned. At the time I thought it would be funny to make the ending bar loop, gradually evolving into something else.

When the video for this song was produced, I intentionally gave the director only the main part of the song, and did not even hint that the song continued much longer. Once the video was completed, I took that final bar of the video and gave it to Yoshi Sodeoka, a video artist from Japan, and asked him to essentially do the same thing I had done and he looped and processed and reprocessed that segment over and over again. Thankfully, the original director was pleased with the result.

06 – Diving In a Sea of Light [ft. Linus of Hollywood + Willie Wisely]

This song was recorded simultaneously with Blue Sky and in many ways the two songs are like ying and yang – Blue Sky takes you up into the bright sky, Diving In a Sea of Light takes you down into the darkest depths of the sea. They share similar schizophrenic arrangement ideas too. I found a jazz trumpet player here in Chiang Mai and had him come in to improvise over the jazz section. The lyrics are from an actual experience I had, not while diving, but while on a small tuna fishing boat one dark morning in Bali many years ago. They are also a thinly disguised metaphor for the DMT experience.

This song features both Linus and Willie Wisely on lead vocals. I recorded them both all the way through, then selected which section best suited which voice.

07 – Orbital Velocity

This instrumental song was written many years ago, and nearly forgotten because it’s a quasi-classical piano piece which I figured I’d never really have much use for. I chose it because I wanted to practice some new arrangements and production techniques on something simple.

I had just recently discovered the music of William Orbit, a record producer from the UK most famous for producing Madonna and Britney Spears, but he also has produced countless albums of his own (mainly) instrumental music. I copied some of his arrangement/production styles here, but ultimately, not too closely. Nevertheless, I named the song after him.

The music video for this song is simply awesome, the director came up with a fantastic idea and really closely connected with the song.

08 – And Ever [ft. Willie Wisely]

Even though I had written this song, I just could not play it. I really struggled to try to find the right groove or style to perform it, but I just couldn’t. I ended up giving the song to Willie Wisely and I give him a reference tempo, the lyrics, the chords, and the song structure. I told him to play the song in his own style, carte blanche. Willie came back with a beautifully finger-picked acoustic guitar track, at a tempo totally outside my suggested range, plus some vocal improvisations. He really owned the song.

I wasn’t at all satisfied with the recording quality of the guitar, but staying true to the process I had begun, I accepted it as-is. This forced me to rip apart and reconstruct the guitar part into something more useable. It ended up sounding like it was simultaneously playing forward and backward. I added in Willie’s vocal parts and then began building up the arrangement from scratch. Apart from slicing the guitar part into a hundred pieces, there was almost no other editing done to the guitar or vocal performance, Willie seemingly anticipated how the song would ultimately sound.

09 – Nobody Listens [ft. Bradley Dean White]

Another song about songwriting. This was another song I’d struggled with for quite a while, at one point it was even a song about my dog. Ultimately, I decided it was a good candidate for another writing exercise. I came up with the chorus idea, then had to come up with the most ridiculous verses I could think of. So the first verse is made up entirely from quotes from Charles Dickens. The second verse is excerpted from a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The last verse is a snippet of PHP source code I had laying around in my computer. Thus, all the verses totally underscore the point being made in the chorus, the joke’s on you if you didn’t catch it.

Bradley Dean Whyte, a good friend of mine who used to live here in Chiang Mai and now resides in Houston, turned in an epic performance of the lyrics.

10 – Do You? [ft. Willie Wisely]

This was actually the first song I recorded for the album. At the time I knew it had to either be the first song or the last song on the album. Since I wasn’t too sure which yet, I gave it a distinctive opening and ending. The frogs were recorded outside my home in Thailand, while the women in the reprise are singing an icaros from an actual Ayahuasca ceremony where I had been in Peru.

It now seems obvious that this should be the closing song on the album. It winds up the concept of nature and music and spirituality nicely. And following Nobody Listens, which prompted you to pay attention to the lyrics, you end up being confounded by the nonsense stream of consciousness lyrics of Do You.