Thursday, 3 December 2015

gone forever

if there are any heavens 
my mother will have one
 




g o n e   f o r e v e r

.












it will not be a pansy heaven 
nor a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley 
but it will be a heaven of black-red roses

nothing with the face of a poet really 
which is a flower and not a face 
with hands which whisper 
this is my beloved

e e cummings 






g o n e   f o r e v e r











.

Friday, 30 October 2015

phoria



one step ahead 
just breathe

until then, I'm a refugee 
and I need to run

dateline:  July 20, 2016
.


 
p h o r i a



 





  
 I think they call it "Collateral Damage"
Special Forces loves making big messes
but don't like cleaning them up
learned this 7 years ago (when I was 2)
when they showed up in our village, Mosul
in north-west Iraq - before we had to move here
to Syria 

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire

First time they came in
spewing their special everywhere
George W called it "Operation Enduring Freedom"
I call it operation clusterfuk, right
I mean, whose freedom?

certainly not mine 

My feet hurt and I'm really 
hungry - so

fuck off 

Parents?  what parents?
Crisis?  what crisis? 










 OK

You send your groomed boys over here
sporting their latest iPhones and Tresemme' hair gel
showing off his girlfriend "Britney" in a shot of her
wearing a skimpy bikini, by the pool - back home
to the jealous rookie, sitting beside him - "fak, hot dude"
smiles all around - good for ratings
right - whatever

munching on a cold dog from camp
before they land in Damascus
heading north - to us 

"You're ok Spencer", pat on the back
"and ya, that haircut?  intense" - inhaling the mystery meat
mustard drip on our full metal jacket floor
"relax dude"

heart rate acceleration and a few fries
short of a happy meal here - thump 

"Boeing V-22's always shake when they're landing
bolts fall out - collateral damage (LOL)
been here, done this"

"gimme a high 5"

looking out at sand and dust
temporary structures 


"you rule dude"
 







That's me, in the striped shirt
just wanting to touch his massive gun
10 minutes before they blew the gas station up
ya, the one where we were living
because Abdul (owner) was on the list
of those questionable, ah
not questionable
any more

So yeah - Abdul is dead, more bugs - more flys on red flesh
hot sun - time to move on

Back at the ranch ...

Nothin' like a little 'male bonding' before 
shooting up everything, everywhere
fuckin' some serious shit - up

On a mission of "mercy" ... flying high in formation
here to throw rocks at the hornets nest (yet again) and yes
we get caught; families killed 
or displaced and where do we go?
Your first tour of duty guy
 
hey Spence - you ok?







oK, we'll find home somewhere
 
In a wooden box or hanging on in a crowded boat
with no life jackets, food/supplies, no toilets
messing ourselves because we really gotta go
 hoping to make it to some island that's supposed to be out there

it's a dream I keep having
thirsty, water - anything for just a sip

Some rich billionaire - so they say, whatever
 options and opportunities are sworn to secrecy
because if they find out, we may be followed
and shut down permanently

.


In the outskirts of Deir ez-Zur
280 miles north-east of Damascus
a 9 year old boy lays peacefully in a muddy ditch
wondering what to do

Red explosions in a black nightsky
I'd like to take them out
all of them

shoot back, imagining
ammo 
 









Iman was separated from his family after a drone strike
3 days ago - and hasn't eaten anything since 
the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
moved into the area about a month ago
where people now scurry-scared of what's coming

Gathering rations - praying for
a future

Iman, has no idea who they really are
only that they want something that he doesn't have
His mother cries out because the family is minus one
moving on without him - he is/was her baby boy
perilously uncertain of what tomorrow will look like

 Whether they will still be alive - reminiscing ...
that clay walled room, in the back of a rural gas station
the place they called home for 4 days, blown up
burned and turned to rubble/ash

just a week earlier

Word is, they were headed north - for Hamrat
where the U.N. has set up a temporary shelter patch
food, drinking water ... rest

Only he has no idea - how to get there










Word is, there's life after death

It's a rumour that's been spreading around
and that it's all about faith - in God/Allah
Delivered and recycled in prayer before bed
songs sung in the twilight in Mommy's arms
in a world turned dark, 24/7

Monsters - everywhere
east west north south - sores on my mouth
It's dark and I'm scared - so is she

Haunting echos of sub-sonic rumblings in the distance
My stomach crumbling for lack of sustinence
reminding me of what used to be here

Sweet rice in reach
 and yet another storm on the horizon
running for cover









red rain is falling


and yet there is a soothing quiet in the madness
forced to leave this place, then the one after
and after because the pounding is relentless
into another shelter

Getting lucky in Deir ez-Zur
because Daddy knew Abdul
and he had a storage room out back
where we could stay for a few days
Me and my four sisters, Mom and Dad
2 mattresses and some blankets
an out-house and well out back 
sweet rice with raisins
and a bug infested dog
named Amira (princess)

 Maybe a week, hoping - maybe
time to think

I thought the Americans were coming to help
but it's not helping - we're stranded here
Daddy told me that it was the Americans
who created the IS, and that they
are just as evil










Something about oil/money, power and control
Personally I think it's more about ego
Entitlement, boredom and neglect
I mean this part of the world
is a toilet

Americans just love fucking everybody's shit up

So ya, I believe Daddy - only because
when the monsters come, they come 
driving American Humvees
tanks and guns and
they are fighting
each other
now

Tyranny arrived here about a year ago
and they were all sporting hardware
designed and made in the USA
stolen by those who were 
born here

and who the Americans are fighting now 
I'm not sure which is worse 
the Americans, or 
the monsters

People who look like me but are nothing like me
I'm confused - someone
explain this to me

They say there's a new consciousness in this world
I would like to test that theory - right now 





p h o r i a


 

crush in bodies of mine
all that searching all that pride 
now by calling force you out into the night

getting no fire going this time








  
hop scotch in barbed wire

I'd like to remember something good
like to go somewhere even better
I just need a sign, a signal

direction

I don't know what to believe in anymore
I don't know who to believe in anymore
If there is a God - I don't know
if he is real


Daddy, clarify
over & out 

It's just one unique perspective
in a world that would appear to be detached
from what really matters


No please, take your time, no rush God no
just relax - we'll meet
again

Until then, I'm a refugee 
and I need to run

one step ahead 
just breathe







 
.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

old friends

four and forty blackbirds, singing daydreams



o l d   f r i e n d s











old friends

home - homeland
throw your worthless coins into my case


The title track from the album that was never released commercially.  Old Friends was recorded after I moved to Toronto in early 1979 after a 2 year hiatus from the studio.  I was 22.  Acoustic ballads were not big back then, so it wasn't submitted as a possibility for my 2 albums released on A&M/UMG (later on), but I always liked it.  No synths/samplers, computers or drum machines back in those days - just my guitars and now a recording studio at my disposal.   I didn't sleep for 8 weeks.

I got into Kensington Sound, Toronto as an intern of sorts, through a government program called OCAP which allowed me a short window to do something in the field in which I was educated.  Best part, is that I was given keys and security clearance, so I went in at night (after normal hours) and spent several weeks playing with ideas on my own and this was the first song I recorded.

 

 





One thing that's really cool about being in a studio at 4 am, in yet another cold, late Canadian winter storm in Toronto (wet freezing snow), recording voices when everyone else is asleep, stumbling home at 6 (sun rising) - for a noon callback - beyond that?  ... is that one comes up with ideas that would never have appeared if others were present - making it all more intimate. 

The high voices were recorded at half speed (15ips) on the 16 track analog recorder and then I put them through a Marshall Time Modulator (the vibrato effect), after bumping the speed back to 30ips.  This song was remastered in 2010 with Wave plug-ins and pulling it up recently, listening - OK ... let's put some pictures to it in October 2015 - 36 years later.   Yes, this is an old friend.

My best work has always been done fast.  I wrote this song in a couple of hours before recording it that night in 6 hours (March 1979).  This clip was assembled here today, October 06, 2015 in 4 hours.  A 12 hour conception front to back.  What a blast.  

Enjoy!



























.

Friday, 4 September 2015

feeding the fantasy


children in a playground, joining hand in hand
they go round and around, circling the light





f e e d i n g   t h e   f a n t a s y

 













old friends


when her lover arrives
he'll take her through the mountains
to the sea


The concept/idea of vanity and narcissism - has always fascinated me ... it's that look ... she  is absolutely stunning!


This is another song from the album that was never released officially, after my two albums released on A&M/Universal Music (1983-1985).  Old Friends was recorded and mixed in my home studio on 58 Phoebe Street, Toronto.   Some out-takes from the A&M album, Searching for the Sunrise, and new songs (mostly), compiled from 1985 - 1989 and re-mastered in 2010.  12 songs that are pretty decent.  My last goodbye as a songwriter, moving into a new world as a composer, doing ad commercials for agencies and some television scoring.  I was a sloth - not fit for this world.  Let's just say that I was spiritually inept.  1979.

I missed being on the road - in the Carnivalé - the dirt and the dust - the endless buffet of beautiful girls, in rotation retardation.   We're all 5 times over the legal limit, in a time when there were no legal limits and a code that meant that no man was left out.  We were a Supertramp cover band - it was lavish and there were lots of bands like us, doing a progressive mix and in style.  We did university pubs and large clubs mostly.  Back then, nightclubs existed that were massive - music-theatres where people could get seriously inspired in the parking lot,  (pay a $10 cover and way too much for drinks), sit back and absorb.  People often said that when they closed their eyes, it felt like they were at one of their concerts.  Right laughing.  








Ok, there was always a lot of good smoke around and everyone was high all the time.  Me?  Never "inhaled"Right ...

It was one long party.  Addicted to that clean shift only in the crisp winter wind, with a tired 3 man road crew in a transport 2 hours behind our toasty warm 69 Mercury Marquis gazing up into the northern lights - at 4 am, just north of the Soo after a gig in Thunder Bay in February.  Yep - smooth sailin' travelin' in style - all the comforts in our smelly 5 seater and another show tomorrow night in Sault Ste Marie.  I did that for 3 glorious years, settling in Toronto, needing rest - studio, right (long story).  

I got married and we gave birth to our daughter, but I was distracted by music and absent from them for the most part, which may explain why my marriage failed (distortion + reverb + delay).  I would sometimes spend days in my studio, only coming out to use the bathroom and make food then back in - night after night - all night, then all day and then all night again - for weeks.

Welcome to my world in late summer 1986 and now later in 2015.  Looking back;  it's like I knew it was stupid but I didn't care.  It's entertaining seeing/meeting 30 year old guys (musicians) since.  All the same (ok 9/10).  Never happy with what they got; always obsessing with what they can never have - just out of reach.  Have fun with this.   Yep ... I'm the teen-age boy hiding - with his Playboy magazine.   I thought I had it all going on but looking back ... I really had no idea what I was doing.

I still don't.






     1986, Spiral Studio, Toronto
 



Saturday, 29 August 2015

freedancing


flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground
and miss
Douglas Adams





f r e e  d a n c i n g



far away journey foreign land,
chasing shadows in the rain











searching for the sunrise

It's what music sounded like 30 years ago.

Searching was my second album on A&M/Universal Music, recorded and released in 1985.   I was thrilled when I got the call from Michael Godin - VP A&R there at the time with the news that there was a green light on it, after my first (self-titled) release which did little in terms of radio so it really didn't make it to retail.  There was a renewed faith, belief/optimism that permeated my existence that year.  This meant $30K for the record and another $30K for a video - YES!  $60,000 was a lot of money in 1985.

Back then, labels knew that a commitment to an artist was essential because the average (successful) recording act didn't break even for 2-3 albums and maybe 1 in 10 signed acts made it to that place so,  here we go.    I had written most of the songs for it and they were most excited about my song "Little Boys" that ended up being the so-called 'single' and we put most of the money into the studio album and video for that song.   The video for 'Little Boys' is posted on my web-site (bottom of the music page).

I liked Free Dancing more (for a single), yes VERY different - but it was Michael's and the record company's call.   Little Boys received extensive air-play on MUCHMUSIC (nationally), and CFNY radio (now '102 the Edge') in Toronto, but Searching itself sold small numbers.  I had what they call an "All-In" production deal with A&M,  so it meant I was responsible for the production/planning and delivery of the album by a certain date - which I did.  I also got to spend some of the budget on gear so I could assemble it at home first, saving money AND having a studio to work in - in the future (without a label).

Even though Searching was the most expensive album I've made, tragically it's my least favourite.  What I've learned is that you can't make good art on a specific time-line/deadline.   Every creation needs proper time to breathe and grow organically.  This was a problem for me and being signed to a record company -  scheduled releases and a pipeline that isn't conducive to creativity.  There are several tracks on this album that just didn't get finished properly - needing the full term to incubate and only having a few months to plan, produce and realize in it's totality.









For instance, this version of Free Dancing has a guitar and vocal overdubs that didn't exist on the original version - and is actually done now.  Pulling tracks up later at home and adding/editing more.  I'm still proud of it though - came together nicely.  It just needed more time to simmer properly.  Pulling Free Dancing back up and do a new clip/video (30 years later) is a real treat.




























Friday, 28 August 2015

borderlines


two men look out the same prison bars
one sees mud and the other stars
Beck



b o r d e r l i n e s




this world keeps spinning us around
and I may never touch the ground


hidden messages?
oh yeah



oh - and turn it UP! 
because it sounds
good  












old friends
 

you could hear a pin drop ...
that was then ... this is now

your wildest instincts, i can't appease ...



borderlines
 
It's what I wanted ... to perform live more than anything.  Massey Hall?  Please.  An amazing band and this on a massive screen (back), imaging borderlines as we play it - just like this only way bigger.  I'd been on the road with lavish, theatrical cover-bands as a front guy (1977-1980), and loved it!  The road crew, big lights and sound, traveling/new places, new people.  What a blast.  I became distracted by machines though ... loved electronic music/sound toys.  I needed to get back into the studio and record.

Between 1980 and 1986, I lived in the studio.  Personal hygiene out the window - zero social life.   Still playing guitars but fascinated by music synthesizers, MIDI - big gear.  Large format recording/mix studios in Toronto - learning ... drifting/creating.  I was a sponge and it ruled me.  Addicted to BIG sound and the technology that manipulates it.  Yep.








This and many songs like it on "old friends", were recorded small format later on.  Apple Mac PLUS computer running "performer" an early MIDI sequencer sync/recording voices on my Roland R8 1/4 inch, eight track analog recorder/mixer combo in my home studio on small speakers - all crude compared to today's standards.  I loved having 24/7 access to a studio, albeit a humble one.

I was listening to a lot of new music that was off centre but amazing - Vangelis w/Jon Anderson, Enya, Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider - composer Mark Isham - the list goes on and on.  Music for me was about embracing chill in the chaos.

I recently pulled borderlines up, scraped it off and took a rag to it - re-listening.  Having embraced iMovie/Final Cut here,  I was inspired to put an audio/visual clip together - now 30 years later.  Best part ... I can do this - I can put my music to pictures, bringing it back to life in HD.    I think it's safe to say that there's an underlying sadness to my work, but if you look carefully you will see cracks in the surfaces where light seeps out - optimism.   Fretless bass by Dave Smith and alto sax by Jon Panshychyn.

Sometimes you get to work with these musicians ... who listen to the track once, then nail it - first take.  That's both Dave and Jon.

It's a place where I can go back and revisit AND bring you with me
an alignment thing.