Friday, June 8, 2012

always someone's monster: "it was a pleasure to burn" production diary

I've actually written about this song before, since she was crafted for SpinTunes 4.1. The challenge was two-fold, as always: right about a childhood nightmare and make liberal use of rubato. For this song, I totally nailed the first challenge and totally tanked the second but still advanced to the next round.

'Cuz it's a good song, even if it is in many ways the antithesis to the feel-good pop of Panacea.

my mother was adamant
that woman was made of steel
so one night she stole away
said she couldn't feel

my father wasn't there
his jaw slack, his eyes a-glaze
he awoke hard one day
left the porch, the house ablaze

and i tell you all of this
so you can understand

my mother always said
there are no monsters under your bed
in the closet they abide
keep them there

i am working my way on through
my family tree of twisted branches
climb on down to the tangled roots
find out where my shadow dances

i am looking for the answer
to the question you asked me
if you are always someone's monster
are you ever really free

and i tell you all of this
so you will take my hand

my mother always said
there are no monsters under your bed
in the closet they abide
keep them there

Let's be honest, there's no rubato here, at least strictly speaking. I change tempo a lot, but there's little variation within any given phrase. I just don't have the vocal control to pull of something like this:

Nonetheless, there's lots that I love about this tune, and that's why she's coming onto the album. First, I like the imagery I conjure with these words. Its both quotidian and dark, evoking those shadows we like to ignore on the clean, manicured streets of suburbia. Second, the constant tempo shifts let me (force me to?) make several sections, with lots of dynamics. Like To The Devil (and probably several other tracks, since I love dynamics), this song loves to pause and then rush forward. Third, it defies conventional songwriting structure in a productive way: Verse - Verse - Pre-chorus - Chorus - Verse - Verse - Pre-chorus - Chorus - Coda. (Yeah, that's right. When's the last time you heard a song with a coda?) Like a dream, this composition wanders into unexpected places, pivots and turns at unusual moments, explodes and then drifts away.

The updated mix has a few new touches I'll mention for the archive. I've added some more oomph to the opening with an organ part (there are two different organs in this song). I redid the vocals in the chorus because originally they dipped too far into my growl-voice. I need bombast for that part but not anger. Nailing and mixing those six bars was probably the hardest part of the entire song-creation process. Finally, I removed the echoes in the second half of each verse, and I really like how sparse it leaves that section.

The remaining tunes on my list actually require full production (why didn't I do them first, when I had the time?) But I'm well into a murder ballad with no chorus (but lots of wicked slide guitar), and actually I have a cover of song from The Books that just needs some re-arranging, so maybe that will come along soon as well. Keep an ear out, we're in the home stretch!

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