The Interesting People - Notes
Background and Insights
Song Notes
Hidden Tracks
Background and Insights
Recording this "solo" CD is the realization of something I have wanted to do for a long time. In 1996, my band Shark Naked released our first CD (in fact, it was a first for all four band members) entitled ...and other urban myths. We were so excited when this CD came out in July of that year, and I still really enjoy listening to it. There is some great playing on that record, especially on some of the guitar work by Carter Lancaster. But I really wanted to record an album that had real grand piano. Though the piano on the Shark Naked album sounds authentic, (it is from my Yamaha W5 synthesizer), and though most ears wouldn’t notice the difference, it plays very differently than a real grand piano. I also wanted to record with all or most of the musicians with whom I have associated over the past twenty years of playing live. Many of the over twenty musicians who appear on this album have never appeared on a CD before, and I feel that their talent merits this special kind of "immortality". Finally, in a lot of respects it is just an easier and more efficient process for me to write the songs, arrange all the parts in my basement on my keyboard, hand out tapes to everyone and decide whose style best suits which particular songs. I was able to match up certain bass players, drummers, guitarists, etc. who had known each other for years but had never played with each other. And because everyone learned his/her parts individually off the demo tapes (they were all amazing at doing this), there was very little rehearsal required (at the most, half an hour per song, and in some cases no rehearsal). This gave the takes a certain freshness and vitality that constant rehearsals sometimes suck out of music. It also gave the takes a sense of urgency and tension, which brought out some great playing.
Originally, I had written a rock album, 15 songs that were much heavier than how the album eventually turned out. The only songs from this original batch that made the album are "One For Me", "Sons and Daughters" and "Sailing Right On Time". My brother Mike (Tyke) and wife Nan suggested to me one day that it might be wiser and more effective to play to my strengths, to maybe do something with a Marc Cohn ("Walking in Memphis") feel. I thought about it for a week and agreed that this would be the best idea. So I took another look at the songs that I had that were more piano-based, and I wrote a number of new songs to try to put together a cohesive unit. I'm very happy with the result.
My first step in this project was to complete the demos, which I did by the end of July, 1999. I was on a one-semester sabbatical from my high school teaching job that upcoming fall, so I spent all my time with my one-year-old son Dillon and thinking about this album. After this, I distributed tapes to 16 people and asked for their honest critiques. On these tapes I included 17 songs. From this collection I wanted to choose 10 or 11. I had just completed five more songs that weren't on the tapes because I wanted them on the album for sure. This process proved to be invaluable because it pointed out strengths and weaknesses in certain songs that I would have never considered. It also made me think about considering a few songs that I would have eliminated for sure, especially "One Wish" and "Sons and Daughters". Before this process, I was seriously considering a song called "Your Sister (Ain't No Little Girl Anymore)" and a very bizarre song which featured hip hop beats and poetry recitation called "The Pink Motel". The learned critics especially trounced the latter. This process also helped me decide my eventual song order. For instance, "Peace of Mind" was voted overwhelmingly as the strongest song, so I wanted to place this very early in the order ("Open Doors" was one of the "for sures" that was not on the tape, and "Peace of Mind" is placed second). The voting and the comments from those who critiqued the demos are included at the end of this "essay".
We basically had two rehearsals for this album. The first was on Oct. 26, 1999 from 7-10 p.m. at the Music Gym in Burlington, which is where much of the album would eventually be recorded. This rehearsal was for the songs on which my old pal Paul Rose would be drumming, namely "Sons and Daughters" and "Catherine and Edgar" with Shark Naked alumnus Stewart Franck on bass, "These Are Magic Times" with my great friend Steve Martin on bass, and "Sailing Right On Time" with my Dorian Wild/Groove Doctors mate Brian Klodt on bass. The second three-hour rehearsal was at Andy Macpherson's house on November 2, 1999. This involved the songs on which Andy would play drums, namely "Connected", "Dillon James" with Steve Martin on bass, and "The Interesting People" with Don Featherstone on upright bass. There were no rehearsals for the two songs on which Atilla Turrie plays drums, "One Wish" and "Open Doors", at least not prior to entering the studio.
The first recording took place on Saturday, Oct. 30, 1999. From 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. we recorded Carter Lancaster doing various takes and versions of "Now I Feel the Sun Again". We tried it to a "click track" to keep the tempo consistent, but it just felt too mechanical. For the last 15 minutes, we tried it without a "click", just acoustic guitar and vocals, and it was pure magic. Carter played great and the song really took on a magic feel. In my original demo for this song, I had a very different arrangement, including drums and several layers of synthesizers. One of my demo critiquers commented that "the beat you included in this version takes some of the life out of it." This made me rethink the arrangement, and decided on acoustic guitar as the focus. After this first session finished and I listened to the tape, I concluded that the guitar was slightly out of tune and that the recording couldn't be used. It was a sad end to an enthusiastic start.
The first recording that we used was on Saturday, November 6, 1999 from 10:00 a.m. until around 4:00 p.m. Atilla Turri recorded the "bed tracks" (bass and drums) at his Mainway Studio in Burlington. The drummers and bass players were in the main studio, and I was with Atilla in the control room with my keyboard and microphone to keep everyone's place in the song. On this day, we would record all the songs with Paul Rose as the drummer. The song we started with was "These Are Magic Times", which is ironic because it is actually the last song on the album (besides the two bonus tracks). This was followed by "Sons and Daughters", then "Catherine and Edgar", and finally "Sailing Right On Time". The next afternoon we met again and Atilla and Brian Klodt recorded the bed track to "One Wish". The following Saturday, Nov. 13, 1999, we recorded "Connected", "Dillon James" and "The Interesting People" in that order, with Andy MacPherson on drums. The final bed track that required real drums was "Open Doors" which was recorded at night with Atilla on drums and Chris Bruce on bass.
After these bed tracks were recorded, I took all the tapes and spent a full day on Wednesday, Dec. 1 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. recording at the famous Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton. This was the same day that Hamilton held the Ti-Cat Grey Cup victory party, so I had to come up with an alternative route to get to the downtown studio, which for me is a challenge. In the six hours, I added grand piano to 15 songs, including the beginnings of "Peace of Mind", "With You", "Symphony" and "Irish Lullaby", for which nothing had been recorded up to this point. It was a great day, in the company of Bob Doidge (who has worked with everyone, including U2). John Dick was also there for much of this session, as he was for a great deal of this album (much appreciated Johnny). Grant Avenue has a beautiful 7 foot 10 inch Yamaha grand piano, which is a joy to play. This is the same piano I used at Grant Avenue in 1987 when I recorded there with Paul Rose, John Dick and Steve Martin. Then we recorded two songs, "Lonesome Bull" and an early full band version of "Symphony". So for John and I, it was a return to our recording roots in a way. The day was very successful, and a huge piece of the puzzle was completed.
From here we set up shop at studio number three, Tim Park's studio "The Music Gym" in Burlington. At this studio, pretty well everything else was recorded, i.e., guitars, percussion, keyboards, vocals, etc. Both Tim and another great engineer, Justin Koop, both of whom had worked with us on the Shark Naked album, recorded these parts. Recording at "The Music Gym" started on December 8, 1999 with keyboards (i.e., strings, pads) and went fairly consistently until mixing began at the end of February. Vocals were recorded in this order: "One For Me" including all harmonies, "Catherine and Edgar" and "Sons and Daughters" on Jan. 7, 2000; "With You", "The Interesting People", "Peace of Mind", "Dillon James", "Symphony" and "These Are Magic Times" on Jan. 10, 2000; "Connected", "Now I Feel The Sun Again", "One Wish" and finally "Sailing Right On Time" on Jan. 12, 2000. Yaba Cisse and Sam Tulloch added their vocals to "One For Me" and "One Wish" respectively on Feb. 29, 2000. Nan also sang her parts on "Dillon James" and "These Are Magic Times" on this date. I'll give some anecdotes about each of the songs.
Song Notes
"Open Doors" (August 12, 1999)
This was one of the last songs I wrote for the album. I wrote the melody to the verses and the "I gotta finalize" line while I was jogging at 6:00 a.m. on a beach in Florida in July, 1999. I came back and sang the melody and the syncopated beat as I usually do into my micro-cassette recorder. The pre-chorus and the chorus came to me while I was cutting the lawn at Nan's parents' cottage in early August. I sat at my computer on August 12 and wrote all the words to the song. The song is about tapping the sources of creativity. "They come and they go" is simply inspiration and where it comes from. The first and second verses refer to those who (sadly) go through life without having any contact or reference to anything creative, even though inspiration is always being stirred up: "But far below they breathe". The third verse personalizes both the struggle and the freedom that I receive through creativity, how "they feed me through the night time".
Like most songs on the album, the resulting structure of the song, including length and tempo, is very close to my original demos. I even recorded the "African" chants on my demos, though these are much bigger on the album with so many people singing. I love Andy and Paul's percussion to start off the album, as well as Tim's electric and acoustic guitars. This song includes an amazing rhythm section by Atilla (drums) and Chris Bruce (bass). "Open Doors" took a great deal of time to mix, especially the choirs at the beginning, middle and end because there were so many different voices (often in very different pitches), but Justin's patience came through and I think it sounds great. Tim thinks it is one of the best mixes to ever come out of the "Gym".
"Peace of Mind" (December 5, 1995)
I actually wrote the melody and most of the words to this song on the back of a program at the "One Of A Kind" craft sale in Toronto that Nan used to drag me to twice a year. I was upstairs with a beer, watching Nan whirling around below like a mouse in a maze from one booth to the next and decided to be productive, so I wrote a song. This song almost made it to the Shark Naked album, but we already had enough songs. I'm glad I waited to record it with a real grand piano. I recorded the piano by itself at Grant Avenue. I added the strings from my W5 at "The Music Gym". Then I got my former student Jonathan De Souza (genius) to play real violin, blending in with the strings that were already there. I wrote out his score just before I picked him up in Mississauga during his Christmas break. Tim spent some time trying a few microphone positions on the violin, and it ended up sounding great. This violin score is the music behind the picture of Dillon inside the CD tray. I love how this song turned out.
"The Interesting People" (September 28, 1998)
I wrote this song at my Yamaha keyboard after returning from picket duty (one of the two times that my school board had gone on strike in my career there). I actually loved being on strike this time because it was right after Dillon was born and I got to walk a picket line for a few hours and come home early to hang out with Nan and Dillon. I was determined to make the strike worthwhile by writing at least one song that I would not have otherwise. I also wanted to write a song in 6/8 time, just because Paul Rose loves any strange time signatures.
I wrote all the music first, including the complete arrangement with sax, upright bass, drums, piano. I then wrote all the words on my computer. The day before, Nan, Dillon and I were at the "Word on the Street" literary festival on Queen Street in Toronto. Dillon and I were in a tent watching an author read, and from a distance I could read someone's shirt. It said, "In heaven, all the interesting people are missing". I loved this quote, rephrased it, and wrote what turned out to be the title track to the record. A couple of months later, I played this song for my English class. One of my very artsy students gave me a gift a week later. It was a fridge magnet with the exact quote that I had seen at the festival on it, written by none other than Nietczhe. I loved it. The lyrics of my song tell the story of two "interesting" people. My favourite lines are "Her words carved like a sculptor, dig in the right places", speaking about a poet whose talent is never discovered by anyone. For two years, the original title of the CD was actually going to be "Don't Blame the Dog", a saying made famous by my dad in the house in which I grew up. I was going to have my brother's dog "Shag" on the cover. But a few months before it was released I decided on "The Interesting People" as a title. I think it's a little more representative of the songs and stories on the album. I often play live in various configurations (i.e., three-piece and four-piece bands) and we sometimes call the band Kevin Coates and The Interesting People. I just use my album cover for the band poster.
Carter's guitar playing is out of this world on this song. He recorded four tracks of acoustic jazz solos and one of electric. It was then Atilla's task to sort through it all. Carter's electric jazz solo (the first solo) was actually the second half of the second solo spot (where the soprano sax solo ended up). We moved this block of music using a computer to the solo's beginning. It was Carter's idea to take the piano right out of the mix in a couple of sections, such as the beginning of the first verse and toward the end as well. I love Don Featherstone's soprano sax work on the "Now she wants to dissolve" quiet verse. It's his voice that you hear at the end: "You like that one; you like that one brother?" Andy plays great jazz drums on this take as well. I think the mix of this song is amazing.
"With You" (August 22, 1999)
This was the last song to be written for this album. The entire melody popped in my head while I was shaving in Milton (very exciting). I sang this melody for a couple of days in my head, and sat down at my laptop at Nan's cottage at midnight to write the words. All I knew for sure was the "Ooh ooh" chorus. The first draft of this song was actually set in a prison telling the story of a man on death row. This is a little different direction than the song eventually ended up going.
Needless to say, a change in concept was needed. I wrote the new words in an hour starting that night at 1:00 a.m. My original idea was to just play piano on this with a subtle click track. I recorded the piano to an inspired click track that Bob Doidge supplied at Grant Avenue. It included a bass drum, which made it very easy to play to. Andy heard this and suggested we make the song more human by adding some real percussion. His djembe and shaker work is stellar. Bob Doidge also showed me a beautiful little French sounding accordion he had sitting around in his studio. He said if I want to use it on any songs that I was welcome. I only had five minutes left of studio time and one take to lay down the accordion solo while a band of old jazz musicians waited in the wings cheering me on. Don Featherstone plays great electric bass on some intentionally dead strings. I love the line he plays coming down chromatically on the second half of each chorus. This seems to be among many people's favourite songs on the album, so I moved it up to the fourth tune in the album's order.
"Now I Feel the Sun Again" (August 13, 1997)
I've already written a few lines about the beginnings of this song. Carter eventually re-recorded the acoustic guitar. As he finished and was leaving the studio, Carter wanted to try another idea, which was to add a second acoustic guitar played at a higher fret position, almost like Jim Croce used to do. He did it in one take and it sounds great. In the mix, I started this second guitar at the beginning of the second chorus. Andy added some subtle percussion, namely a wood block to start each chorus and finger cymbals through the verses. We eventually mixed the wood block out. Chris Bruce did some great bass work, as usual. In the mix, I wanted a fretless sound. Chris' solo was actually a "comp" of five different solos. Put together it sounds perfect for the song.
"Connected" (March 26, 1999)
The beginning lyrics for this song were sitting in my computer hard drive for a couple of years before I revisited them. I really like the first image. I knew I wanted some more up-tempo songs for this record so I wrote the music of this song fairly quickly on the guitar. I wrote all the rest of the words in the middle of the night on scraps of paper at my house. When Nan and I were travelling in Indonesia in the summer of 1997, we spent three days with a great man named "Wayan" who showed us around Bali. He took us right into his little village to meet and have dinner with his family, including his 80-year-old father who carved out ancient religious stories on wood. Originally the Wahan verse was the third verse, but then got moved to second.
Musically, Andy played a great syncopated beat, which was a difficult task against a 4/4 click track. After everything was finished, the chorus still lacked something. Justin looked around the studio, found an electric guitar and played a great slide part on each of the choruses (very Zeppelin). We also put a slight delay on the voice, which works well with the rest of the mix.
"Catherine and Edgar" (March 18, 1999)
Right before this song was written, I went back to some old micro- tapes to see if there were any strong piano-based melodies that I could use for a song with a story-telling feel. I found the melody that eventually became this song, recorded a couple years back on my grand piano. Nan, Dillon and I spent an afternoon at the Ontario Art Gallery in Toronto on the date mentioned above. For an hour, while Nan and Dillon walked around, I sat down and wrote virtually all the words to this song. The arrangement on the album is almost exactly like my original demo. This is the "Shark Naked" song on the album, meaning Paul, Stewart Franck and Carter are the main players. I also added Dave Hills on classical guitar to introduce the "Edgar" verse (which was a version of a musical idea that Andy had). The bed tracks for this song (bass/drums) are among the best played on the album. I think that the simplicity of the mix works well with the story.
"One For Me" (July 23, 1998)
I wrote the melody and many of the words to this song while I was driving Nan to a doctor's appointment a few weeks before Dillon was born. I wrote out the notes and a few lyrics on a piece of cardboard in the doctor's office. When I got home, I played around with techno drum sounds on my synthesizer and started recording. I found a violin sound and played the line on the first take for the demo, just fooling around. This was eventually played note for note by my student Jonathan De Souza. Tim recorded him playing it twice, the second time over top of the first, to give the feel of an electric violin. Later in the mix, Atilla and I moved this violin part to various sections in the song, even though it was actually only played in the one spot. The voices at the beginning are a beat improvisation starring my students Yaba Cisse and Sam Tulloch. We also added a great drummer Paul Dickensen (who plays djembe on this song, as well as percussion on "Catherine and Edgar") to do the percussive sounds at the beginning with his voice. The three of them sound great together (even though Paul has never met the other two). Yaba also improvised the "rap" throughout the song. Right before the piano solo, he states, "play the music, white boy", but I canceled the last two words. I sang all five part harmonies, with Tim at the controls, replicated exactly from the original demo. It reminded me of working with Tim recording the five part harmonies for the Shark Naked song "Cycles". Chris Bruce came in, and without ever hearing the song before, laid down a beautifully simplistic bass part on his five string bass. I really wanted John Manley (from The Groove Doctors) to play a raunchy guitar throughout this song. It took a while to connect our schedules, but he finally did it (he also played parts on "Connected" and "Sons and Daughters", all in one hour). Atilla and I spent a couple of full days going over some potential drum loops (he has a massive collection) that come in on the second verse and add so much to the song. Atilla's final mix on this song was extraordinary. I love especially the "we only go around once in this life" section. Pure magic.
"Sailing Right On Time" (Nov. 12, 1990)
I really wanted a "Dorian Wild" song on this album, meaning a song played by the four original members (Tim Park, Paul Rose, Brian Klodt and myself), and if possible, a song that we used to play live. This song was one I had written in 1990 (about half-way through the six year life of that great band) and one that we had only played live once (at the old Good Time Charlies in Burlington on a wintry Sunday night). I went back to my original demo for much of the arrangement. I remember when I wrote it, I was trying to write something that sounded a bit like Blue Rodeo, which was different than anything I'd written before. On the album, Tim plays five tracks of electric guitar, and one of acoustic. I loved recording these tracks with him. He also sings all of the backing vocals, to make it like a real Dorian Wild song. I later added accordion and my brother Joe plays some solid tambourine. An interesting footnote comes after the last chorus is sung, when I sing "'Cause I'm sailing home to you". The section that follows features the piano, electric guitar, bass, and kick drum. Paul never played anything in this tiny section on the original bed track, but I really felt it needed something. A week after Paul recorded his part, Andy was in the studio and had just finished doing his drum bed tracks. I got him to thump along the kick drum part for the eight measures until I finish singing "I'm sailing home to you". Andy and Atilla agreed on what kick drum pattern should go here. Paul said to me about six months later that he knew something was different about that part. He thought I had replaced his drumming on the entire track. I love the casual ending to this song, including Joe's dropped tambourine. Joe also dropped the tambourine at the end of "Falling" by Shark Naked, but we mixed it out. We finally kept it here for Joe's moment of glory.
"Irish Lullaby" (July 7, 1995)
This is one of the earliest instrumentals I had recorded on my Yamaha W5 when I got it in 1995. The original demo was just piano, exactly half of the length of what is on the CD. A couple of people told me that they really liked this song and suggested that I make it longer. My student Jonathan De Souza added the live violin, as well as the tin whistle (which was Nan's; I just happened to bring it along that day). Andy came in on another day and added the great bodhran, which concludes the song. We added lots of reverb to the tin whistle in the mix and kept the violin dry. We had several takes of violin parts to work with, which was a nice luxury. I love how this song turned out. My original idea, years before this album was recorded, was to one day end a CD with this song. After this CD was recorded it was going to be placed AFTER "Dillon James", but Tim suggested (at 4:00 a.m. one night) that it would sit nicely after the two "rock" tunes as a preamble to "Dillon James". I think it does just that.
"Dillon James" (November 24, 1998)
I knew I wanted to write a song for Dillon's baptism (which was at the end of November, 1998). I wrote all the music to "Dillon James" at our grand piano, and Nan and I wrote the words together. We sang it as a duet at the baptism, and I decided to include it on the CD, which was a good move, because Nan sounds great on it, and the song is a favourite among many listeners. I really wanted Andy to play drums on this, because it was a joint baptism with Andy and Suzie's son Devlin. I love having Steve Martin playing bass on this, as well as John Dick on acoustic guitar. John picks the first chorus by himself, and Carter later joins him on the rest of the choruses. The picking that Carter does is a perfect compliment to what John plays, which is amazing because when Carter recorded his parts, he had never heard John's (they weren't recorded yet). It was a coincidence that they worked out perfectly together. Carter also does the great chunky chording for verse three, on his beautiful Martin guitar of course. This was a very difficult and time-consuming song to mix, because we had so many different takes of vocals, and different levels for a lot of them. Originally the song was played on the same acoustic grand piano that I use on the rest of the album, but for some reason a few notes were distorted during the recording. I decided to use an electric piano sound, which in the end, makes it different and is another reason why this songs stands out. As usual, I love Andy's percussion work, including congas and a whole track of cymbal swells.
"Sons and Daughters" (February 26, 1998)
This is a good example of a song that I didn't think would be on the album, but was voted in by the 16 people who critiqued my demos. And because my brother Mike (Tyke) ranked it number one, I had to include it, and I'm now glad that I did. I wrote almost all the words and melody to this song while I was cross-country skiing somewhere up north. This was a song that I thought would be great with Paul on drums and Stewart on bass, with a detuned D string. Paul plays some amazing and very complex patterns here, especially on the final verses. We originally thought we would have to scrap the entire bed track of this song because by mistake a reverb was bussed to the high hat track; this meant that we couldn't use the high hat cymbal, which is at the heart of the whole song. But Justin found enough other mikes on which the bleed of the high hat cymbal wasn't present that he was able to use the bed track still. All of the keyboard parts were literally taken from my demo (not re-recorded) and synched up to the click track. The original beginning was five measures long, with Paul's drum pattern and some spacey synth/saxophone sounds. Eventually we scrapped all of that and started the song with the initial bass riff. I really enjoyed singing this song. John Manley added some nice subtle touches on the bridge with his electric guitar. Some of his playing reminds me of some great Jimi Hendrix riffs. I also love Tim's acoustic guitar which crescendos right until the end. The final "explosion" that you hear at the end of the song is actually only Paul's kick drum with massive reverb.
"Symphony" (September 16, 1982)
This is the oldest song on the CD (1982). It was a song I wrote at the University of Waterloo (St. Jerome's College) in the fall of my second year, and one I used to sing at Coffee Houses and the Duke of Wellington pub in Waterloo. It just reminds me of that whole wonderful, carefree era, so I wanted to include it on the CD. I had recorded it previously in 1987 at Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton (where, as I've mentioned, I recorded all of the grand piano tracks for this CD) with Paul Rose, Steve Martin and John Dick, along with another song called "Lonesome Bull". For this CD, I wanted a very different version, as sparse as possible. I wanted Steve Martin, my old Duke of Wellington playing buddy, to be playing bass as well. In the studio, we also recorded a soprano sax part with Don, similar to the string part I wrote for the 1987 recording. In the mix, Justin said the sax was making the song sound like elevator music and I agreed, so we scrapped the idea. The sax mix exists on DAT date still. In mixing, we were having trouble with continuity with the three takes of vocal tracks we had, so I ended up singing it all over again just before the final mix. We took the one take vocal and I think it works well.
"One Wish" (June 13, 1990 / September 27, 1999)
This is a song I had written on guitar in 1990, but hadn't played live anywhere. Just for fun, I included it on the tape for the 16 critics to consider, and it came back with many positive comments so I included it. Not long before recording the vocals, John Dick suggested that the words are a little dated, so I rewrote all three verses and kept the chorus the same. I actually kept a few of the lines from the original, and made the third verse completely different, including a news media spin. Originally I had rented a 12-string guitar for John Dick to play. We recorded this but decided later that the guitar was slightly out of tune so we couldn't use it. I also wanted to play guitar on one song on the album, so I thought this was an opportunity. I come out of the right speaker, with Tim playing in the left. I wanted this song to include powerful percussion so we recorded Andy and Paul Rose playing congas and djembe like a couple of maniacs. After they came out of the recording room, Andy commented that it was so busy that it sounded "like a couple of hacks". We eventually made it sparser, with Andy playing rain stick and congas throughout. The original cacophony of Andy and Paul can be heard for about 8 seconds at the end of the choir/percussion only chorus, right before the final chorus near the end of the song. The god Joe Coates later added tambourine. We had also recorded Jonathan playing the bodhran throughout the song, but it ended up clashing with everything else.
I wanted a choir/gospel feel for this song, so I went in the studio one night with Justin and started overdubbing my voice, beginning with the lowest notes and working my way up. We later added Nan's voice for some middle notes. Though it sounds like Nan, the highest notes are actually my falsetto. We sang all of this for the first chorus only, and then moved it via computer throughout the song.
I love Atilla's drumming and Chris' bass work for this song. Originally it was Brian playing bass on this song. Brian learned it exactly from my demo and played it great, but we decided a little more movement was needed to keep the groove going, so Chris came in, and again without hearing the song before, played it perfectly pretty well the first take with me yelling chords out like a madman. Finally, we added my student Sam Tulloch to sing the gospel lines off of mine. His lines were all improvised, recorded over two takes. His singing was a lot of fun to mix because there were so many great lines to choose from. We had to decide where he should begin, which was during the second chorus. At the end of the song, Sam went on for about a minute without any music: "I'm talking black unity/white unity/peace among the races..." And he went on and on.... Finally, he ended with "I'm talking real peace", which we moved up and placed right after the choir finishes to end the song. I think it's one of the best mixes I have ever taken part in.
"These Are Magic Times" (March 6, 1999)
I wrote this song walking home from Loblaws in Milton just down the road from our house one cold March evening (again, an exciting story), about seven months after Dillon was born. The chorus just came out word for word and I went home, sat at the piano, and wrote the rest of the music. I wrote all of the lyrics that night as well. I knew as soon as I had written it that I wanted to end the CD with it, and I love how it turned out. The challenge was to keep it sparse, which meant that Paul Rose had to play a very simple drum pattern at an extremely slow pace for over seven minutes. He did it flawlessly. I really wanted Paul and Steve Martin to play together again somewhere on the album, and I thought a song with such meaning for me was the perfect place. I love the high bass line that Steve wrote for the choruses. We added some nice chorus effect to these parts to bring them out in the mix.
This song is where I was especially happy with my decision to use a real grand piano on this album. Bob Doige at Grant Avenue had the 7'10" Yamaha tuned perfectly and I remember enjoying every minute of recording this song, including a second track for just the piano solo. We recorded a track of Paul on wood block and me on cabasa in one room, with Andy on congas in another. Don plays some great tenor sax throughout the song, starting at the bridge and right through until the end. In the mix, we spliced out about 40 seconds of playing as the song fades out. It turned out to be a seamless cut. The next job was to go through about fifty hours of video footage to find Dillon's first words "Mama" which I wanted to feed into the computer and place at the right moment as the song faded out. I chose four sound bites of the boy king and put them at the end. This is one of my favourite songs on the album (and now there are "four of us").
Hidden Tracks
"She Calls My Name"(June 12, 1989)
This is an old Dorian Wild tune that Tim and I wrote in the summer of 1989 at Tim's little studio behind his house. I always thought that this was one of that band's strongest songs (and so did a couple of potential record companies). We recorded it once as a band but never released it anywhere, so I thought it would be fun to do an "acoustic" version with acoustic guitar replacing electric and accordion instead of synthesizers. I wanted it to feel very casual with just a couple of mikes placed in the centre of the room. We met at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, set up, had a few beers and began recording a couple of takes, but not before we played unplugged versions of several Dorian classics, including Tyke's favourite "Nitetime Soul" and "It's Always". We kept the last take of "She Calls My Name" in its entirety, including all vocals and no click track, and it turned out great. The best part is the old "Devil Inside" ending, the chromatic three note descent done twice. If you listen carefully to the very ending, you can hear a taste of "It's Always" played on the accordion. You can also hear Tim swearing if you throw on headphones. This song marked both the tambourine and vocal debut ("subway line") of Tyke. The hardest part of recording this song was getting Brian to concentrate; all he wanted to do was pose for the videographer (thank you Carolyn) as usual.
The next thing we did was add the CLAPPERS. All of our kids, friends, etc. got in a room and simply clapped along to the recorded track. The song wouldn't be complete without Tyke's "oh yeah/ Way more Wade" chant at the end of the tune, like he did every night he saw me play live since I started playing in bars. This is one of Dillon's favourite songs.
"Meridian" (April 2, 2000)
Since Dillon was a few months old, he has loved all things musical, including the piano. One night I took him down to my music room, put some headphones on him and recorded four takes of him playing the piano. He sat on my lap, and all I did was hold the sustain pedal down. All four takes were, of course, completely different (he was 18 months old), but each was interesting in its own way. The one I chose only required a few notes of editing (taking a few notes that clashed away, which can be done on a keyboard but not a real piano). I'm still amazed at how good the piano sounds, including some real arpeggios and crescendos.
The next thing I did was turn the keyboard from piano into percussion sounds, and Dillon went insane, hitting every note he could find. This track took about three hours to edit; I decided to just keep a few sporadic percussion hits because the piano worked so well on its own. The last things that we recorded were the strings. For five minutes, Dillon played the same "riff" you hear on the recording. I edited all but a few out. We called the song "Meridian" because that was the name of Dillon's girlfriend at the time. Now Dillon's no longer sure about Meridian because she's a "biter". Some day I may submit the final "piece" to a contemporary composition contest and pretend Dillon's some major composer. He's actually a member of SOCAN because of this song. Hilarious.http://www.newvibesjazzquartet.comhttp://www.newvibesjazzquartet.comhttp://www.newvibesjazzquartet.com