Tonight was the Frankensong Listening party. You can find out all about the endeavor here.
This is our 1st entry in the Frankensong Collaboration by The Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol for Charlie McCarron.
AWSP is Chris Cogott, Gorbzilla (Dave Gorbe), Kevin Savino-Riker, Jason P. Schumacher and The Boffo Yux Dudes
(Allan Morgan and Tom Giarrosso)
Go to http://frankensong.tumblr.com/ for more information on this interesting project.
All the entries for round one can be found at http://frankensong.tumblr.com/after the listening party.
Our band ‘Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol’ put together a song, and a video for the occasion. We also wrote a few words describing the event. First, the video – Then a few words from our bandmates. Enjoy!
Frankensong: Anatomy of One of Five Contributions to a Composite Musical Piece Authored by A Team of Loosely Acquainted Internet Musicans and God This Title Is Long
by: Kevin Savino-Riker, of Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol
I am a wordy, wordy bastard. Feel free to skip around, or past, this writeup. I’m the kind of guy who can say in 100 words what most say in twelve. By choice.
That means you have a choice, as well. Alright, now that I’ve thoroughly disclaimed you….
THOUGHTS ON FRANKENSONG
What a delightful little (actually quite big) project! There’s been a rash of creatively conceived events between rounds of the SpinTunes contest, the latest of which comes courtesy of Charlie McCarron. You should know him for inventing the polyalbum; you don’t know him for that, but you should.
When I signed on to take part in Frankensong, I figured I’d be one of maybe a dozen people with nothing better to do; what I discovered is that I’m in a field of five teams of four to five members each, all of whom seem very eager to strut their multifaceted stuff. This event is big and it’s going to be really interesting once we hear every team’s take on the challenge. Well done, Charlie.
THOUGHTS ON ATOMIC WEREWOLF SPACE PATROL
Despite being a regular member of a number of bands for the better part of the past fifteen years, I’ve done very little that I could fairly call ‘collaborating’. I wanted to change that, and taking part in Frankensong was going to be my crash course in the most extreme flavor of the act. “If I can get through this…”, so the saying begins.
I received my team assignment and I found myself in talented company. Crap. I spent a fair bit of time wondering if I had any leftover ‘A’ game hidden in my closet.
Never having done something like this before, I found myself unsure of how to prepare for my part in it. I settled on doing nothing. That is to say, I consciously chose not to listen to a single track before my turn. Not only had I not listened to the tracks of my preceding teammates, I didn’t even listen to Charlie’s seed track. I could say this was to prevent myself from prematurely forming my own ideas of how the song should sound, only to find those ideas incompatible with my teammates’ contributions… but the truth is I thought I’d do my best work being as unprepared as possible and under a time crunch.
This ended up being a crucial move, as I was originally scheduled to submit our song’s second track, but a personal complication (read: “spectacular car accident”) ate up a lot of the time I had budgeted for this project, and I ended up switching into the 3rd round, with teammate David Gorbe stepping in and submitting the 2nd round track for me. Were I to contribute a part that only accompanied Chris Cogott’s rhythm guitar track, the song would’ve gone in a less interesting direction. But being presented with Chris and David’s distinct and complimentary parts I was confronted with a more complex and nuanced landscape. More pressure. Better contribution.
I play all your basic rock band instruments, but I consider myself first and foremost a drummer. While this would be the logical contribution to make amongst a team full of guitarists, because of my time constraints I pleaded with the rest of the team to take on what I thought would be a simpler task – the bass line. It turns out that writing bass for this song was much more demanding than I expected it to be. This is to the credit of Chris and David for their intricate rhythm and lead guitar parts. More pressure. Better contribution.
Chris and David, due to their early slots, had to submit interesting parts that left enough empty canvas for the remaining teammates to use; since the song’s sound was pretty set by the time I received it, I thought it appropriate to provide as much raw material as possible for our team captains to utilize as they saw fit. I didn’t trust myself to decide for them where my contributions would be most valuable; what I may have thought was too cumbersome or too ‘forward’ might have been exactly what our mix master was clamoring for, and something my own uncritical ears may have found crucial and beautiful might actually have been too cumbersome and forward to the objective listener. So I played through the whole song. You can always take unneeded crap out, but it’s impossible to add it where it’s missing.
The one place I did decide to take the lead was in the hole Chris and David left at the song’s time-signature change bridge/breakdown around the 2:30 mark. Our bridge sounds dramatically different from the rest of the song, so I took it upon myself to navigate into it. Being a drummer, I have a bit of a percussive style when I play the guitar. Being a guitarist, I have a bit of a lead guitar style when I play the bass. So my transition from verse to bridge ended up being a percussive lead guitar-y bass riff, for better or for worse. We can always make it an a capella segment during final mixing.
I wish I knew a damn thing about music theory, but I don’t, so I can’t comment on what effect, if any, my part had on the key or mode or temper (I’m just throwing terms in here; I don’t know what they mean) of the song. All I can say is that I stuck mostly to basic major and minor pentatonic guitar scales that followed the root note of each chord. I tried to weave my part around David’s lead for most of the song, but paralleled him in a few spots when I was feeling particularly saucy. There are a couple places where I went to an interval note instead of matching the root, but I can’t tell you what interval it was or why it sounded good to me… it just did, so I did it.
My ignorance of music theory was especially problematic for me when it came time to play along with our extended second verse. I’m convinced Chris felt like being an asshole and constantly changed chords that didn’t follow any sensible progression so he could laugh at me later for having to suffer through it. I have a pretty good knowledge of scales as they pertain to guitar solos within a single key, but I was lost on this progression. I enjoy walking bass lines, but I couldn’t seem to find a scale that worked along the series of chords Chris provided. Ultimately, I picked my part out note by note, shifting scales with each chord change. Which, I should add, came approximately once every two seconds. Chris, you asshole. Of course looking back on the completed segment I think it’s genius. But still. Asshole.
From the very beginning of my turn I wanted my track to vary from part to part throughout the song, but I thought it important to maintain a measure of symmetr… and I was also getting exhausted and creatively drained… so I played my ending to match the intro. Then I drank heavily. Self medication costs way less than counseling.
I’ve spent time talking about Chris and David, and far too much time talking about myself, but Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol also features the talents of Jason Schumacher and Tom & Allan of Boffo Yux Dudes. Jason is the only team member with whom I wasn’t already acquainted before this contest, but I can say this: despite not knowing him, I respect the hell out of his ability to use a bottle of soy (or maybe Worcestershire?) sauce as a percussion instrument. SUBLIMINAL NOTE TO OUR TEAM CAPTAINS: I REALLY HOPE THE PERCUSSION TRACK FEATURES PROMINENTLY IN THIS SONG, ESPECIALLY THE SOY SAUCE PARTS. Ahem… Tom and Allan are two of the funniest and most fearless guys I’ve ever not-met-but-know-pretty-well-from-the-internet. I could have believed that with them in charge of lyrics, our song could be about pretty much any topic on the planet. But the truth is that since before the first note was ever recorded I knew our song was going to end up being a power ballad to a sex robot. And it’s superbly sung with rich harmonies and great lyrics… something hard to do with as layered of a sound track as was given them Great job, guys.
RIKER’S FINAL THOUGHTS
Jesus, I’m at 1400 words and I still feel like I need to provide final thoughts? Maybe I should’ve written that disclaimer in a larger font… I’ll try to keep this short. Now that my piece of this puzzle is submitted, I’m very happy with the form our song ended up taking. It’s most certainly not the way I’d have written it, and that’s the point. And it’s better, too. In addition to being a valuable learning tool, it was tremendous fun in a hectic kind of way, much like SpinTunes and the Songwriting Cycle and the White Elephant Music Club challenge and, well, every other contest and project in this community tend to be. I keep doing it because it’s good for me. It’s really good to be exposed to the creative products of people who do what you do, differently. It’s really good to learn from that experience. It’s really good to discover a wealth of truly remarkable artists who share their time and talent for the sake of the song. It’s really good.
Allan Morgan – Bon Vivant – Man Bout Town.
I am not by nature a garrulous man, yet there are some stories which should…nay, MUST be told. Hearken back with me, O reader, to those halcyon days of 2010, as I spin a tender web of adventure, intrigue and bio-mechanics.
I was studying ancient cuneiform (as is my wont) in the study in my civilian guise as Arthur Q. Septogram III, slippers and smoking jacket immaculately in place as always, when a gentle gurgling from the southeast corner of the room (yes, the one showcasing the stuffed ibex) demanded my attention.
“The Boffone!” I whispered to myself, striding purposefully towards that instrument of communication and portal to adventure, gently but forcefully removing the handset from its onyx cradle and placing it to my waiting ear. I solemnly intoned my half of the BYD codephrase: “Drop the speculum, Franz!”
An electronically-modulated voice on the other end completed the sequence: ”This suit, is it worsted?” The filter then dropped, and the natural low bass Slavic-inflected rumble of Tommy G’s voice came on the line: ”My friend, it is good to hear your voice again.”
Inwardly, I smiled. Outwardly, I drooled. ”And yours, comrade. Send my best to Katya and the Colonel. But…” my tone darkened, as did my trousers. “I assume this is no social call?”
Tom sighed. ”You are correct, as always, my friend. Our talents are needed.” He paused before continuing, letting the silence add weight to his next pronouncement. ”On the INTERNET.”
The internet! Home to pedophiles, thieves and drunkards! The internet! Hellish phantom zone of lost morals and lost causes! The internet! The macabre instrument to which I lost…my beloved. A chill ran down my spine as a stared off into the inky blackness swimming before my eyes. “I…see.” was the best I could muster.
Tom knew I was stunned and gently brought me back: ”Fret not, my good sir. This time we are not going into that inky blackness alone. Have you ever heard of…The Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol?”
The Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol! More formally known as “The Amazing Super-Fantastic Bubble-Plastic Tight-Trousered Euphonium Brigade and Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol Society Featuring the Fabulously Mind-Expanding Harmonica and Glockenspiel Stylings of Big Herbie “Little Herbie” Herberts and his Flatulent Supporting Cast of One-Eyed Spanish-American War Veterans With Bill “Pootie” Dobbs-Meyers, King of the Latvian Rhumba”, AWPS were known throughout the land for being a beacon of light and hope in an ever-darkening sphere of debauchery and sin. ”I certainly have!” I managed to stammer. ”But how do we fit in to their plans?”
Tom hesitated. ”They have need of our…singular talents.” he said softly, letting the sentence hang in the air like a pair of sneakers hung over a suburban telephone line. I knew what he meant. I had a certain…history that made me…knowledgeable about certain…fringe elements in society. And I liked…ellipses.
“You mean my…history with…EV.”
“Enough with the ellipses!” Tom barked. More softly: ”Yes. They are good men. Talented men. They play instruments and write songs and wear funny hats. But they cannot know what is in the heart of a man who has built a love and then lost it…you can tell that story. Only you. I know that. You know that. Now you must tell the world.”
I knew he was right. If the society needed lyrics, if they needed to tell a story that was right and true and just a bit bizarre, well, then, I was their man. With a final nod, I put down the phone and pressed a small button on the underside of my bust of Soupy Sales, opening a secret compartment in the wall that revealed the Boffpole, which I then slid down into the darkness of the Yuxcave.
In the darkness and security of the Yuxcave, I labored intensively over the dreaded intenet on the lyrics of EV’s story with my bosom chum Tom. We crafted and refined, melting the story down to its purest essence, jettisoning anything that was wrong or false or legally actionable.
Finally, in the heat of our artistic furnace, we blazed forth a story for the ages, vocal lines to melt hearts, a mix to ring through the centuries, and a video that was pretty damn cool. This was our legacy.
In the end, with the fires of our passionate artmaking dying down, we sat back and mused at the steps that had brought us here and the gigantic talents upon whose shoulders we sat.
Charlie, who started it all.
Chris, whose rhythm guitar energized us and stirred us to dream.
Kevin, whose supple bassline danced playfully across our imaginations.
Jason, whose polyrhythmic soypacket deployment dazzled us and sentshivers down our spines.
And piercing the night with a lead that brought us to the edge of delirium, the man they simply called…Gorbzilla.
And we smiled. Oh, how we smiled. And smiling a smiley smile we laid our heads to rest on the pillow of justice and dreamed of a new day. An Atomic Werewolf Space Patrol day.
Jason Schumacher – Percussionist with a Spatula Heart
The guitar tracks were already made, so I figured I’d soup up the percussion a bit. After realizing I hate no percussion instruments, I took a break to ponder and make myself something to eat. I left the kitchen realizing I did in fact have some percussion instruments! A pepper grinder made a good shaker sound. A plastic container of cookies when hit with wooden spoons sounded a lot like a snare. With some hand claps layered in, all I needed was bass drum. I found that might space foam neck pillow had a low sound when I hit it with my hand open. Just goes to show, you don’t need lots of money or resources to make a little music.
Tom Giarrosso – Someone who needs to get some air and sunlight occasionally
When Charlie put this out, I thought – this looks like a fun project to play with. I think I even committed to doing it before talking with Al. I felt sure it was going to be a wild ride. I wasn’t wrong.
I was in the Artifiction Chat room when the idea of this was bopping around. I thought it was great that Charlie wanted to run it – I have just found out that many of the people in SpinTunes were actually friends and bandmates of Spencer McGillicutty in MN. They didn’t advertise the fact, but by the final round there were clues, since they all seemed to play on each others tracks more often than Joe Covenant Lamb guests on someone’s tracks. ( Hi Joe! )
It got me interested enough to volunteer us as a captain before the rules were even hashed out. I figured it something that’ll morn as it goes on, and the idea of having to add to other’s work and have other teams doing the same thing in secret until the final reveal was too good to pass up.
It was up to Al and I to pick some teammates ‘playground style’. I’d say that strategy was involved, but really, I looked at the list and tried to pick people I respected and wanted to work with. Of course, those were all taken, so we got stuck with these talented clowns.
I figured – how much work is there? we get some tracks, we lay one down, a little mixing and we’re done.
Then Chris sent his track back, I knew we were in trouble.
It rocked. It rocked his rhythm track so much, I knew we had to bring an ‘A’ game to keep up. So much for sleepwalking through a track.
Then Gorbzilla’s turn added to my fears. It was also ‘A’ list. Crap. Now we’re going to have to actually work at this instead of mail it in. Then Kevin’s turn. Again, home run. Then Jason took it in another direction, using kitchen implements for a percussion track.
We were totally screwed. No mailing this one in. So Al and I thought of a few ideas for the vocals and lyrics. we figured it should be some sort of 80′s power ballad love song about a woman’s name. But going past that was interesting.
We had 3 choices – a standard love lost story… a love story from the perspective of a pre-op transexual… and forbidden love about robot sex.
I’m sure you know the path we took by now.
RangerDen from Donut Worthy had tweeted they were going to do a video of their song – great idea! So we gathered as much footage of band tracks, and wacky robot shots as we could, and while Al mixed in Chicagoland, I sequestered myself in the BoffoMansion at the royal edit suite until all the footage was assembled.
Then we realized there was no words to elucidate this stunning achievement – so the call went out for the band members to catalogue and reminisce about their exploits for the drama that was the creation of this song…. We’re still working on that.
Chris Cogott – Not only did Tom hold me at gunpoint and make me write this, but this is also the title…
Its been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to write music and play nice with others and Charlie McCarron’s Frankensong Challenge has provided this opportunity for many of us to do just that. As usual, I signed up not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into but I’m glad I did. I like not having a winner or loser and just having fun writing music, as experimental as it was.
My memory fails me yet again, but I’m not sure if the order of who was recording was sent down the pipes at the same time it was announced who was on what team. Either way, being a nervous person as it is, I was exuberant about being on this talented team, jumping around and crap, until the biggest boulder of all boulders hit me, and hit me hard. I was going first! Talk about pressure. I was kind of hoping to be put somewhere in the middle and maybe contribute some backing vocals or something that I think I’m good at. The pressure of coming up with a track that everybody could play along to and be happy with was immense.
The first challenge to overcome was figuring out what the hell was going on with this seed track. Sorry Charlie Take after take after take, I became extremely frustrated. So, finally I brought up the tempo thingy in ProTools and found out that it actually had a consistent tempo. Once I figured out what it was (I think it was in the 90 something bpm range), it became a little easier to work with.
Now to lay down an instrument track. Guitar is what I’m most comfortable with and that’s why I went with it. I thought the rest of the group would need something musical and somewhat melodic to work with. Putting handclaps, or drums, or vocals first wouldn’t work. I did a few takes and came up with what I did. I’m not sure why and I try not to question the creative process too much and just go with the flow. The one thing I purposely did was to leave the track open and airy for others to fill in the gaps and run with it.
And run with it is what everyone did. Dave added a lot of tasty guitar work and made the song soar. He even added a nice little jam in a section that I had left completely open for anybody to take the reigns. Kevin then added some superb bass work complete with what sounds to me like some bass harmonics. I thought Kevin would have taken the drums but the bass lines he played fit right in and he also took the lead in the jam. Jason then came in and saved the day by adding the much needed percussion that the song was screaming for. Then it came time for BYD to work in their special magic. I couldn’t wait to get to this part and hear how it was all tied together. Words cannot describe the flat out awesomeness that both Tom and Al have put into this, plus I’m getting a little tired or writing. The lyrics, the vocals, and all the time put in making the video was way more than I had expected. They really went the extra mile for this project and we are all extremely grateful.
As stressful as it was in the beginning, I had a great time doing this. Thanks Charlie for putting this together. The other songs I thought were outstanding. Donutworthy topping my list. Great job by everyone who was involved in the Frankensong challenge. Look for the AWSP album and tour coming soon. I’m working on my stage outfit now.