Thursday, January 27, 2011

Song #6: You Can't Just Wish It Away

You Can't Just Wish It Away (1st draft) by Ignatius Zoo

I don't even know how to begin explaining this one.

The tune came to me while I was walking through a shopping mall in Fort Lauderdale while on vacation one winter. Just the chorus, with that crashing drum sound. It was outside Dillard's. It stuck. That was over two years ago. The rest of the song came in dribs and drabs. The tune struck me as regretful and whimsical.

So the lyrics, I was determined, would go in the opposite direction. With a vengeance. It took a long, long time to produce the lyrics. The first verse came after a lot of self-cajoling. The second verse, longer yet. Then I was completely stuck. For months. And months. Finally, I just sat down with a pen and free-associated a bunch of absolute rubbish. And then ... Well, I don't believe in muses, as supernatural beings. But I can see why ancient artists were convinced that they existed. Because my muse just got really pissed off with me, and snapped, "Look, this is how the middle part goes; listen up." Words and music, in one go. No paper. I memorized it after one ... uh ... let's call it one listen, although there wasn't anything to hear.

I figured out how to play that middle part on guitar first, then the verses. Then the final verse, once I pictured a humongous monument on the beach at sunset. (This was long after leaving Lauderdale.)

The song stayed in my head for about a year, almost exactly as it sounds here. I always knew it would be four-and-a-half minutes long.

I have several songs in various states of completion at this point. This one was the closest to complete-completion. By my count, I'd be three songs behind at this point without releasing anything tonight. So here it is. And I'm just two songs behind now.

So, about those lyrics. What the hell do they mean? Have you ever heard a song or a poem and thought about it and thought about it until the meaning revealed itself to you? And it was all the more personal because of it? And then you heard an interview with the author, and he totally upended your personal interpretation?

So, let me put it this way. I know exactly what this song is about. And soon, so will you.


 You Can't Just Wish It Away
©2011, Ignatius Zoo

She just had too much beauty for her body to contain
So her dainty, silver fingers pulled the blade across her veins
Now her beauty's spilling through the forests and the plains
Paints everything slick scarlet 'til not a scrap of green remains.
You can't just wish it away.

Her children lifted up her body, carried it along
Their eyes were wide and wonderful, their throats were full of song
Other children joined with them, now they are a throng
Now no one takes away their rights, no one tells them they are wrong.
You can't just wish them away.

Their processional was met by heads of state
Clutching brittle, thousand-dollar dinner plates
Wearing shiny, plastic crowns upon their heads
Come to animate the living, and worship the dead
They brought carbon lights to shine
Down into the sugar mine
Where they're working overtime
Mining sugar, all the time
Just to dump it in the sea
To make it sweet for all the fishes
For all the vicious things that live there
Sweetly swimming in the sea
With hindsight, they might admit it wasn't such a great idea after all
But now there's sugar in the sea
And there will always be
Sugar in the sea
It's there to stay
You can't just wish it away.

They built her monument so high, it blotted out the sun
The stately marble casts its shadow over everyone
They lost her body somewhere once construction had begun
So now her tomb's a cenotaph, it weighs in at a million tons.
You can't just wish it away.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Song #5: Boring Journey to the Sex Planet

Boring Journey to the Sex Planet by Ignatius Zoo

I like songs that tell stories. This one tells a story so simple and dull that there are only six words in the lyrics.

I continue to be amazed at how hard it is to write simple songs. Most of this song is a simple D chord, droning harmony, and the occasional intrusion of synthesizer. And simple drums, too. But it took me years to shape this one. It started about 2 years ago, finding a sound I really liked in Reason 4 called "Bubble Harp". (I couldn't find it in Reason 5. Figures.) I loved the combination of Jew's Harp twang and sittar drone in that sound. After playing around with it for a while and coming up with the title and lyrics, I found myself listening to "The Creep-Out" by The Dandy Warhols. Thematically similar, I guess; wrapping a simple song around an almost non-existent lyrical structure. But I'll bet the Dandys cranked that one out in real-time imrpovization, and didn't wait years to mold that song just-so.

Again, I must credit this fake glam-rock career for making me produce this one. Without an artificial deadline, it wouldn't have happened.

You're beautiful, baby.


Boring Journey to the Sex Planet
©2011, Ignatius Zoo

I hope we get there soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Song #4: This Is the Sound

This Is the Sound (Rough Cut - Please Comment) by Ignatius Zoo

I came up with this one during a long car drive during Labor Day weekend in 2008, shortly after I'd started collaborating in Polyatomic. I'm not sure what inspired it. It has some stuff in common with Madonna's "Ray of Light," but the character is different: dirtier, rougher, ruder. Dirty, rough and rude is my approximation of dance pop.

Every now and then, it feels good to just cut loose and make a song with only two chords. And yet, this one took me forever to finish. I don't get it. I really do not get it.


This Is the Sound
©2011, Ignatius Zoo

Your eyes explode with tracks of moist mascara
Your lip is trembling like you're frozen through
What is it this time?
What is it this time, love?
What is it this time?
God knows, it's always about you.

This is the sound
This is the sound
This is the sound, this is the sound
Of teardrops hitting the ground
Your muffled sobs are music to me
Your muffled sobs are music to me
Your muffled sobs are music to me
Let's sing another bar.

Wherever you go
You're always center-center stage
With the spotlight shining
And the footlights blinding
And the audience sighing
Sending waves of applause

... Let's sing another song.

Whatever you do
It's a plot point in your private passion play
Where the heroine's bawling
And your foes appalling
And your friends are stalling
And Hollywood's calling
Begging for the movie rights.

... Let's all sing along.

Let's splash around
Let's splash around
In the puddles of your tears
There's puddles on the dance floor
There's puddles everywhere you turn around
Let's splash around
This is the sound.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Song #3: Now Is the Only Time

Now Is the Only Time by Ignatius Zoo

There are literally thousands and thousands of songs about Alzheimer's released every year. And they're all so, you know, morose and sorrowful. I figured it was time for a happy, peppy Alzheimer's song.

This one has been in my head for a few weeks. At least, the final third was, the part that begins, "We're going to decline". It didn't really have a topic, until this past weekend when my grandmother visited briefly. I realized that her firm memories will soon pre-date my birth. I will just be a kind stranger to her. So, this is her song now, and always was.

Her memory is gone, but the person that she was is still there: sociable and kind, very pleasant company. I know that some people suffering from Alzheimer's become suspicious and nasty, surrounded by people they believe to be strangers, and probably hostile ones. So there is a little nugget of solace in her condition.

This sounds basically the way I intended, sort of. I inteded to use picking, a guitar technique I hardly ever use. My fingers not being so nimble today, I chose to replace the picking with "doot-doot-doot" singing. Other than that, exactly what I'd intended.

For a change, straightforward lyrics.


Now Is the Only Time
©2011, Ignatius Zoo

My mother's mother was born in 1924
She's still around, but she don't know me anymore
She kinda knows my name back from when I was a kid
But she seems to think that I should look the way I useta did
She receives me like a lady, graciously
I introduce myself each time, she's always pleased to meet
It's like she is the hostess at a party that never ends
And every hour, she gets to meet me once again
Each time
Each and every single time
Now is her only time

This time
Now is her only time
She doesn't seem to know
She doesn't seem to mind
It just doesn't make sense
It's always present tense
Each moment is a blend
Of happy accidents
Each time
Each and every single time

Sound the alarm, the library's burning down
Soon it will be nothing but ashes on the ground
The air is filled with burning pages of history
Carried by the wind like crispy autumn leaves
So high
They disappear into the sky

As easy as it comes
That's as easy as it goes
Where the wheel stops, no one knows
Make this the only time

In time
We're going to decline
We're gonna go blind
We're gonna lose our minds
And then we're gonna die
Make this the only time
Make this the only time
Now is the only time
Now is the only time

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Song #2: Scent of Neon

Scent of Neon (Demo - Please Comment) by Ignatius Zoo

This is as good a time as any to talk about my influences. Like everyone who grew up in the '80's, I like U2, and they're a big influence for being consistently great. Eurythmics have a place in my heart for changing what I thought was possible in music at an early age, and Annie Lennox for continuing to be flawless yet emotive. Beck for doing unconventional things in traditional ways. Harvey Danger for being the best example of a personal secret: most people consider them a one-hit wonder (if that) where I see a vibrant but sadly abbreviated body of work. Dropkick Murphys for playing balls-out rock 'n' roll, with a bagpiper in their lineup.

The top of the heap, though, is Peter Gabriel. "San Jacinto" is like a sonic blanket. "Here Comes the Flood" is titanic. And time stands still whenever "Mercy St." plays. I have been quoted as saying, "I shudder to think what the world would be like today if Peter Gabriel had not made 'Mercy St.'" (I exaggerated, but just barely.) Amazing, brilliant, bracing work.

Peter is known for his uptempo pop numbers, but there is a very dark vein he mines every now & then. From the increasing hysteria of "Moribund the Burgermeister" (first song on the first album), he has done crazy. He goes there. "Wallflower," "Birdy's Flight," "No Self Control," "Darkness" and many others have him returning again and again the the well of madness.

I did not intentionally set out to make a Peter Gabriel-ish song. And good thing, because this really isn't. But in retrospect, I can feel his influence.

This song is about paranoia and delusion in an urban setting. City, winter, night. Hanging with the colorful characters. Getting laid in unusual ways, and making sex sound like alien abduction stories. And feeling that something is amiss. Seeing William Burroughs' Mugwumps slithering, and thinking that David Ickes was on to something in seeing lizards in human skin. This is not how I literally see the city, but a little booze and a little fatigue and it's not such a stretch.

The song sprang out of nothing. I sat down on Tuesday and just started futzing with factory presets in Reason. Lots of fiddling with the sound architecture. It was a lot like sculpture this time: I started out with a sonic mass and removed everything that didn't sound like a song. None of this was pre-conceived, with the exception of the phrase, "Predators know only hunger / Prey know only fear," but that wasn't set to music until tonight.

The part in the middle where the two voices overlap: Happy accident. I went to record over a track, and liked the way the two sounded together.

Scent of Neon
© 2011, Ignatius Zoo

The footprints in the dirty snow dead-end in front of you
The moonlight is obscured by neon signs that burn bright blue
Upturned, pleather collars hide their freezing breath from view
It's awful, it's just awful, what the scent of neon does to you

They'll make you fill your face with a jagged, black tattoo
They'll cuff you to the bedposts and insert things into you
It's awful, it's just awful, what the scent of neon makes you do

They're people, but they're not human
Their skin is made of tastebuds and tiny, lidless eyes
There's no surprising them
They're predators, but they're aching to be your prey
They're attracted by the scent of neon
The scent of neon will not go away

Predators know only hunger
Prey know only fear
The scent of neon is always near
The scent of neon is always here

(Make the night brighter than the daylight)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Song #1: I Am Your Enemy

I Am Your Enemy by Ignatius Zoo

This song has been in my head for a couple years. I put off recording it for the longest time because I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it justice. So this morning, when I knew I'd post the first of 100 songs, I had nothing. No music, no finished lyrics, no song file. Nothing. So I had a deadline, and I worked it out. While I think that I didn't get it perfect, it sounds very close to the version in my head. So, good thing that I decided to do the Hundred Project. This never would have been made otherwise.

I did want this to be my #1 Song. It's my pre-emptive strike. I will discard you, I will betray you. Don't say you weren't warned.

The song is about celebrity. It's not exactly something I strive for, but celebrity is omnipresent today, present in the most ordinary places and sources. Everyone has a public. Nihilism feeds celebrity. If you'll believe in anything, you'll believe in nothing at all. You will stand for nothing.

The lyrics came together quickly once I sat down with two blank sheets of paper and a pen. Some of the reference are explicitly about war while implictly describing a hard-luck situation (Waterloo, Dien Bien Phu). Some lyrics reference self-confidence inflated to the point of lunacy. All the lyrics involve gleeful nastiness.

It's good to start out with a straighforward rocker. All power chords, distortion and caterwauling. Enjoy. Maybe sing along.

Five minutes 'til midnight. Better hit "publish post".


I Am Your Enemy
music and lyrics by Ignatius Zoo, ©2011

I am your primal scream
I am your teenage dream
I am your tooth that's loose
I am your golden goose
I am your Waterloo
I am your Dien Bien Phu
I am your fleur de lys
I am your enemy

I am your poster boy for glamor
Getting hammered in the slammer
Won't you listen to me yammer?
Maybe sing along?
I am your ever-moving goalpost
With a bon mot and a riposte
Do my utmost just to cut you
And swear I did no wrong
I know where you're not strong
I am your enemy

I'm your St. Andrew's Cross
I am your boss's boss
I am your Sunday best
I'm compound interest
I am the path that's true
I am the other shoe
It's gonna drop. Guess where?
That's right. It's gonna drop on you

I could make you and un-make you
Cut you loose and then re-take you
Fake you out and then forsake you
More like you to find
I'm the blood moon on your horizon
Try as you might, you keep your eyes on me
Despise on me while you cry on
Cry your red eyes blind
I am not your kind
I am your enemy

I will love you in the crossfire
Where you can feel the bullets sting
I will cash in on your passion
I will make your black heart sing
I am the nothing you believe in
If you'll believe in anything