Werewolf on my Nightstand • Recording

Listen to Werewolf while reading (opens in a seperate window)

This was the first track we recorded. We worked at Rich’s apt in Hollywood. It was a while ago so details are a bit sketchy.

I had been overworking the song, playing it in a folky, Roger McGuinn-like, Byrdsy drawl. Every time I would try a home recording version I would run it by Amy Raasch, who loved the song. Very politely she would deem each version underwhelming. Back to the drawing board.

Rich Jacques suggested we take a different direction. He set up my guitar to almost feeding back level, and laid down a slamming, balls-to-the-wall drum track. In that setting fancy guitar work just murked things up. Rich said I should strip things down, playing the barest of chord outlines.

A slight diversion. I did a brief stint in Rich’s solo project, playing bass. We did a series of live gigs, and I recorded one song on his Right the Stars album, House by the Ocean. As well as a solid songwriter, Rich is quite the gunslinging live guitarist, when the mood is upon him. You should catch him.

Back to recording. With the new, simple-but-loud approach working on the backing track, it was time for lead vocals. I ended up having to shred the vocals a bit so that things matched. We were both really pleased with the result. I took an early mix to Amy. Thumbs up.

This laid the groundwork for the approach to the rest of the album. Endless thanks to Rich for his foresight, and pointing out what I couldn’t see; the obvious.

Next post: Another momentary diversion.

Werewolf on my Nightstand • Writing

WEREWOLF ON MY NIGHTSTAND

© 2009 Words & music; Music by Chuck Lee Bramlet

There’s a Werewolf on my night stand
He watches over me
I bought him for a dollar
The dread I got for free

I painted him with testors
I glued him with dupree
There’s a werewolf on my nightstand
So don’t you mess with me
So don’t you mess with me

There’s a bully in the schoolyard
Or maybe two or three
If I made myself invisible
Then they wont notice me

But they find me on the playground
They find me in the hall
But there’s a werewolf on my night stand now
So you can’t have my ball
Can’t fuckin’ have my ball

Mama nothings wrong
Don’t worry about your son
I don’t fear no wolf
Because I’m one

I dreamed that you were running
Tried to call your name
Kathleen in the schoolyard
Eyes of flashing flame

I thought you’d recognize me
thought you’d see my face
But you just see the werewolf
Standing in my place
Standing in my place

Song Circle assignment time. Someone suggests we draw names out of a hat. Whoever you draw gets to assign you a “custom” task. I draw Leslie King. She licks her chops (wolflike) and says “Chucky, you have to write a HAPPY song. About your childhood.”

Some might observe that I didn’t exactly fulfill the assignment. I can’t really argue that point. The song isn’t exactly happy, but the feelings are honest.

I had the werewolf (see picture). My parents thought there was something wrong with me. Oh wells.

Next post: Recording Werewolf.

Eyes of a Killer • Recording

Listen to Eyes of a Killer while reading (opens in a seperate window)

I’ve forgotten if I used my Guild D-4 or not, sometimes Rich had me use his ’67 Gibson J-45. Rich laid down a simple kick and shaker. Vocal, one pass. We had a basic in a pass or two, then bass. I used Rich’s jazz bass. After playback we judged things were indeed sturdy.

Then the real fun. We invited Joel Martin down to play pedal steel. I will be dedicating an entire post to Joel later. He was MVP on this record.

Joel is an anomaly on the LA session player scene in that he actually has soul and takes risks. His tracks tend to reveal their genius on repeated listenings. Now I cannot imagine these recordings without him. If you are ever lucky enough to hire this guy, his playing will start to seep into your DNA

He came in with an old tweed Fender Princeton, his new pedal steel, and trusty Les Paul black beauty w/bigsby. We had done this song live once or twice, but not on steel. Joel nailed it, one or two passes, but I think we used the first. On playback, my jaw hit the floor. Listen to the surefooted way he keeps the verses dissonant and brittle, but when the chorus comes, he opens things up like a flower. What an amazing musician.

The song ends prematurely, like a life interrupted. I let a minor sixth ring out with the tonic. Joel threw a beautiful fifth overtone feedback over that. We didn’t fuss over it, it just happened.

Next post: Werewolf on my Nightstand.

Eyes of a Killer • Writing

EYES OF A KILLER

© 2002 Words & Music by Chuck Lee Bramlet

Red winged blackbirds sitting on a fence

Both of ‘em talking just one making sense

Can’t see ahead through the delta fog

Sacramento river’s deep and long

For every time you put me down

When I should’ve talked back, never made a sound

Every point you scored at my expense

Red winged blackbird sitting on a fence

Can’t afford an attitude

Living indentured servitude

Caught my flash in the rear-view mirror

Startled by the eyes of a killer

Easy being brave in a big old crowd

Walkin alone you don’t talk too loud

Yes sir no sir hold on fast

Waiting for the storm to pass

Hiding behind your woman’s skirts

Acting ten foot tall and bulletproof

Bide my time with my eyes to the ground

Wait till your mama’s not around

Can’t afford an attitude

Living indentured servitude

Caught my flash in the rear-view mirror

Startled by the eyes of a killer

In 1994 I was living in Portland, OR. I was a member of a VERY loud rock band called the Violets. The Violets were co-led by a brilliant songwriting duo Lisa Enterline (now Hayes) and uber-guitarist Cisco DeLuna. We got the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas in March for SXSW. We loaded up our gear into “El Puerco” (a 2 tone, 15 passenger airport Dodge van) and headed south.

I love van touring, because the Violets had a “no recorded music” policy, which helps me write a lot. During the long periods of no driving I had my little college composition notebooks and a pen. I wrote about seven songs on that trip, and Eyes of a Killer is the one that survived. Others from that batch made it onto my first album, “Pook’s Road”.

The Violets great drummer Jano Janosik (currently playing for Stewboss and Bardo) was a bird expert, and as we passed through the Sacramento delta area I kept seeing these beautiful black birds perched on fenceposts, the only thing breaking the monotony. When I asked him what they were, he said, “It’s the red-winged blackbird.” Right then one of them took off, revealing beautiful red plumage.

The first line came, and everything else came quickly. This is one of those songs that revealed its meaning to me long after it was created. Many of my writing friends relate the same process. It’s like taking dictation. The song is, as it turns out, less about violence or retribution and more about not living as a doormat.

Next post: Track by track: Recording Eyes of a Killer

Burn Down Start Over

I’ve recorded this album 4 times, hence the title. Not all songs that are present in the final, but most. After Murder of Crows in 2004, I kept recording original stuff at home, but tracks were either too raw, too fussy, or too overworked, in other words, “dead on arrival.”

I was playing bass in Renee Stahl’s band at the time, and she invited me to join the song circle, once a month we met and played each other our latest efforts, issuing each other challenges and fulfilling group “assignments”.

The writing group included Leslie King of Bardo, Kevin Hunter from Wire Train and Tuesday Night Music Club, Gregg Sarfaty from Stewboss. Others in this group included Gayle Day, Erik Penny, Mike Schmid, Amy Raasch, Alex Davis, Whitney Cline, Korel Tunador, Renee Faia, and Tracy Spuehler. Rich Jacques (later to form Right the Stars) started producing spectacular-sounding tracks for Renee and others in the group, and offered to help. After months of foot-dragging, I said yes.

I had already worked with Aram Arslanian from the band Orphan Train producing on two songs, Dogs Behaving Badly and This River. Aram and his brilliant wife Sarah from the band Ladytown moved away to Portland OR, finally settling in Vancouver WA. I miss them every day.

Once Rich and I started recording, things moved very fast. Tracks were kept very sparse, one or 2 guitars at most, vocals recorded live in a pass or two. One of my favorite things about Rich is, when working, we don’t talk that much. If you have a musical idea, play it. It’s very hard to bullshit him. I was the slow-down factor in this process. Depression, indecision, lack of will and confidence. I will be posting a blog entry for each song on the album, how it was written, how we recorded it, etc.

The CD itself has very little graphic real estate for liner notes or lyrics, so I will be using this blog for that.

Next up, the oldest song on the album, Eyes of a Killer.

Changes for the @#$% Holidays

Finishing up this album. Long time coming, and a lot of sacrifices. Kind of hard at this point to let it go. This is the third solo album, and the first with an outside producer. The fact that he was involved, and that I couldn’t afford to pay him what he was worth, had the unexpected benefit of being done before I am ready by instinct. I would normally be tweaking mixes, adding tracks, burying and killing spontaneity. Truth is, with all our differences, I needed Rich on this project.

Anyway, I am at the “torturing the poor mastering engineer” stage of things, then on to manufacturing, marketing, live supporting and selling the damn thing. What I know currently about these processes you could fit into a music industry professional’s heart and still have room for all the compassion and humanity. That being said, I shall press on. Why? Because I may not be all that and a bag of chips in your opinion, but I am an artist, and I will complete my duty to this project. What is that duty? As my lifelong friend and genius guitarist Tom Ayres told me, “Your job is to make the most beautiful art you can, nothing more, nothing less.”

The album (I still call them that) is called “Burn Down Start Over” and is eleven tracks long. I am having it pressed, even in this post-CD period. Then comes plan B through Z. We will see.

After that, I will save up to move out of my shithole apartment and begin again.