My new album is called Projector. It is made up of songs that I wrote while my father was in the hospital, and in the immediate aftermath of his death. The album was recorded and mixed on tape and was produced by Marvin Etzioni. I play all of the instruments, except for the introductory instrumental. We recorded and mixed in 5 days. Here are some sketches of how it all came about…
ELEGY IN D BARTON
I wrote this instrumental on the piano in my house. The version on the Projector album was arranged and played by my friend Johnny Usry. He did some arrangements on cool soul records in the 70s for the O’Jay’s, Teddy Pendergrass and others. His ‘Walt Disney meets the instrumentals from Yellow Submarine’ take on the music is such a lovely intro for the album to follow.
THESE 4 WALLS
Written about the house that I grew up in. My parents ended up living out their lives in that house for over 50 years. The video, which is up on YouTube, was filmed in the now-empty house. All of the images in the lyrics evoke my memories from the place. The line about ‘TEAC 3-3-4-0, threaded tape and plugged in long ago – oh what a lovely overdose’ is all about the endless hours that I would spend in my bedroom with my TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel machine.
HERE COME I
I was reading my dad’s diary from when he was 14 years old. Several times, he would end an entry with the phrase ‘1935 – here come I’. That line stuck with me. One afternoon I sat with my guitar and this lovely love song came out. Fully formed.
A song about longing, I suppose. ‘The sun is setting down tonight somewhere with you – your eyes are open, wide-awake all night – me too’. My parents were actors, so the image of a projector is very apt. All of our home movies were shot on 16-millimeter film when I was a boy. I can remember setting up the screen and hearing the click-clack sound of the film going through the projector.
Another song about growing up in that house. As a teenager, I was a David Bowie fanatic. Without Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane, I don’t know what would have become of me. Those albums were like life rafts. The opening lines in the lyrics ‘Close the door to the hallway – kill the light, pretend it’s House On Haunted Hill – Scary theramin themes play – you’re in your room, so quiet, very still’, captures two times in my life: playing haunted house with my sister when I was a boy, and then being alone in my room as a teenager…waiting…wanting…
THIS IS WHERE TOMORROW ENDS
Written after a particularly difficult day seeing my dad in the hospital. ‘Spinning like a top – tell me how to stop it all’ sums up how I was feeling. It was all too much. I kept thinking about what he must be going through, mixed in with my own emotions (and probably a migraine). I love this one. It was the first song that I played for Marvin Etzioni on the night when I played all the songs for him.
MOJAVE PHONE BOOTH
This song was also written while my father was in the hospital. I had heard about an old phone booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert in California. People would call the number and let it ring until someone answered. It was finally taken away—but the image was very powerful for me. For this recording, I sat behind two kick drums that were both struck when I pushed down on the pedal. I played guitar, sang and played the drums all at the same time. This was a live recording in the studio with zero overdubs.
THE LITTLE DEATH
One of the earliest songs written for the album. I had bashed through a version of this with my band when I first wrote it, which sounded great! But, the concept for Projector was for me to play all the instruments—so, the full-band rave up will have to wait.
PIE IN THE FACE
This recording is from the original demos that Marvin and I recorded in his front room. He had set up his 4-track cassette machine and one microphone. As I played all of the songs for him that first night, he put them all down on a series of cassette tapes. There were no headphones, so when I played the drums over the guitar and voice track, I couldn’t hear anything except for the drums. They get a little bit out of time as a result. A happy accident. It sounds like there is a raging pie fight going on – like everyone is slipping on the floor from all of the splattered pies….I put this on the album as nod and a wink to my dad. I can just hear him saying, ‘don’t make it all so serious! Laugh! Have Fun!’
This song was actually written with the same sort of feel as ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ from Revolver. It evolved into the rocker that it is now. It’s a song about grief, written a couple of weeks after my dad died.
LITTLE HEART ATTACK
Another song from when my dad was in the hospital. I envisioned this one as a fast rocker that would have fit right in on ‘This Year’s Model’ by Elvis Costello. My band started to work out a version like that – and then my dad passed away. I pulled the plug on everything at that point. I sat at home one night and reworked the song into the shape that it is in now.
SUPER FANTASTIC GUY
The day after my dad died, I was home alone. I picked up my guitar and this song essentially played itself. It was written very quickly. A remarkable experience. I was drained by the time it was finished. Crying my eyes out. Weeping. When he liked something, he used to always say, ‘that’s not just good – it’s faaaaantastic!!!’ So, I turned it around and aimed that word back at him. He was a Super Fantastic Guy. I sang this song at his memorial.
CUT THE ROPE
The last song on the album, and the last song that was written for the album. We had chosen the numbers for the record—but I knew that it still needed a stunning closing song. This song popped out one night. I had the chords first. As soon as I found the melody and sang ‘We stood on the shore in the crisp chill of dawn…’ I knew that I had the song.