Saturday, August 28, 2010

Operation CTFU: Join the Draft (Part Five): Miguel Rants about Nirvana

Operation CTFU: Join the Draft (Part Five)

Edited by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

(Posted 9-2-10 as make up for 8-28-10)

[Hi, I’m Chris, and I’m taking you on a trip through all of our incomplete material. Here’s an explanation of why. As usual, I will be right here making comments within these brackets. Well, it’ll be a different set of brackets, but you get it. A long while back, Miguel and I had an eight day week discussing lyrics. It wasn’t an official theme week. It just happened. Miguel started to write a follow up. Here it is.]

Shit. Something I clearly forgot to include in my Nirvana rant: the source of the title "Smells Like Teen Spirit". I was sure that I had written a paragraph about its actual meaning. Either I was thinking of writing it and didn't write it, or I wrote it and didn't save it properly. Okay. I'll write it now.

Teen Spirit is the name of a deodorant marketed by Mennen starting in 1991. Kurt Cobain's girlfriend at the time, Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill, used this particular deodorant. Tobi Vail's bandmate Kathleen Hanna spray painted, "Kurt smells like Teen Spirit" on Cobain's bedroom wall. This little fact only convinces me further that the title itself, like the other lyrics, are snatches of random thoughts and remembered phrases cobbled together into an ostensible lyric. Chris used to get really pissed off when people would point out the connection between the title of his song "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die" and the fact Cobain killed himself (or was murdered by a contract killer hired by Courtney Love so she could keep all the Nirvana royalties. Ms. Love then went on to mastermind 9/11 ensuring that explosives were rigged in the World Trade towers to ensure their total destruction so the U.S. would go to war with the Middle East and her Gulf Oil stocks would see an uptick so she could buy more heroin.).

[As editor, I’m washing my hands of everything in the parentheses above, and probably in ways that have nothing to do with editing. I’ve talked to Nathan, and he says that he doesn’t typically read anything in the draft section, instead waiting for the finished product. I actually tend to go in and see what’s up, and I sometimes will give my cohorts a little help. I will either edit as I read, or I will make notes if necessary. Here is one such note that I made to Miguel.]

NOTE TO MIGUEL: “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” was the working title for “In Utero,” but it was shot down (ummm) so it became the title of a song instead.

[See? Ain’t I helpful? Ok, back to Miguel’s writing.]

To be fair, it's hard to see how the song is about him hating himself and wanting to die, particularly with the chorus, "In my sundae, I like hot sauce. In my sundae, I like hot sauce." [hahahahaha, I think he’s right] So while the song might not have been about him hating himself and wanting to die, per se, (or anything at all for that matter) the title is a thought that weighed heavily in his mind, and he pulled it out when it came time to give this song a name. That's my belief anyway.

Let me say this, if you the reader (Hi, Chris) [Hey, Miguel. How are you? The wife? My goddaughter? Wonderful. Continue please.] are hoping to grab a coherent, well deduced and fully analyzed argument, you'd better look elsewhere. To a certain extent, my initial posts were rants, and I don't promise that this will be any different. A lot of this stems from my 20 years as an on again, mostly, off again, wannabe musician. It's a reaction to a particular composition methodology that I was never able to get behind: songwriting. At least, songwriting where the process began with a bunch of words on paper, and an edict to somehow craft a piece of music that fits all these words, regardless of whether an interesting riff or melody came out of any of it. In my view, you are more likely to get better songs if you start with the music.

[I’ve learned from my 20 years (actually more) as a creative person that there is no right way to go about the art of creation. I swear I’ve talked about this before, but if not here goes. In 2009, I wrote three solo songs.]

[“Changes to the Script” was written at two separate times. I wrote the lyrics in 2006, while I was in JAKT, to possibly be plugged into a JAKT song needing lyrics, because they almost always started with music, and then needed lyrics. It was never used. In 2009, I was composing on my drum machine, and I created a melody that reminded me of something The Cure would do in the early years. I really liked it. After working with it for a bit, I created this odd bass/drum effect that was really kind of cool too. I needed lyrics at this point. I started with things that were written, and “Changes to the Script” felt right. It helped that I wrote the lyrics conscious of how many syllables were being used. I spent a couple of days at work, delivering pizza, working out how to sing the lyrics, and then set out to record it. To make the question of what was done first, the music or the lyrics, even a bit more muddled, I worked out the actual arrangement of the music as I recorded to fit my vocals better.]

[“Not Enough of Anything” – Did I start with the lyrics here? No. Did I start with the music here? No. What did I start with? Well, I started with some games of Magic: The Gathering on Magic Online, and some songs by my friend Kristen from The Crazy Ivans. She recorded four songs in 2009 on her own, and posted them up to My Space. I really enjoyed them. Each one was my favourite at some point, and when you can say that about any collection, it says something about the overall quality. I would often play the songs as I played Magic Online. I underestimated her song “High Tide.” (Ironically, there is a Magic card by that name.) At first, I thought it wasn’t very dynamic, but I came to the realization that it was actually very subtle and powerful. I found myself in a very bad funk around August of that year, and I turned to writing. I had a very intriguing thought one night. The four songs that Kristen recorded were done with acoustic guitar and vocals only. Some people, like Kristen, can do that well. Some people, like me, can’t. My thought was, “How do you write something like that using electronic music?” There are examples everywhere. Depeche Mode is really good at it. Jesus Jones pulled it off with “Yellow-Brown.” But I wanted to capture the isolation I was feeling, that I thought “High Tide” had done a really good job of doing. I sat down, and I wrote a number of lines expressing, in words, what I felt, and then sat down with the drum machine and my bass guitar. I didn’t use the programming functions on the drum machine. I did the three tracks separate, and played them in real time using the buttons. I then plugged my bass into an effects peddle, and played it real time too. I then took my lyrical notes, cleaned them up, and got to recording the vocals. I literally recorded them over thirty times. What I did was I sang until I did something I didn’t like, reset the track, and started again. By the time I was through the whole song, I knew what was working and what wasn’t. It was a question then of simply keeping in time with the music. I recorded and rerecorded until I got it right.]

[“Demo Quality Love Song” – I wanted to do a song that was literally the same beat the whole song with guitar, bass, and vocals. All my recordings are of demo quality, but I wanted to create something that sounded like I sat down and recorded the drum beat, then the bass, then the guitar, and then sang over it as a means to get an idea down to work on later. But I wanted to treat it like the other songs by giving it my full attention to detail. In fact, I recorded it twice. The thing is that once again this came from a concept rather than starting with the music or starting with the lyrics. My point is that with creativity, you start from all different directions, and what makes something good is often the work you put into it, and the changes you make when you realize something doesn’t work.]

[I once wrote that I’m fascinated by the work aspect of things more than Nathan is, but that Nathan has more focus; and therefore, works better. If I had to make a similar statement about Miguel and me, I would say that I’m more fascinated by the process of creativity, while Miguel is more interested in the components. This is why Miguel can look at something like lyrics and say, “Those aren’t as important as a great riff.” Meanwhile, I don’t feel that any of it is as important as how I will get from having nothing to having something. Well, enough about me, let’s get back to Miguel’s “rant,”]

Chris wrote:

“Miguel attributes the lyric to Cobain’s affiliation with a punk band, and probably therefore attributes the lyric, ‘Our little group has always been and always will until the end,’ to referencing the band as well.”

The reason I did so was because the line by itself is missing a lot of information otherwise. The line preceding it is, "I'm worst at what I do best, and for this gift I feel blessed." Since no explanation is given as to what gift (a.k.a. talent) the writer is referring to, I have to assume that the "I" in this case is not a fictional character within the song's narrative, but Cobain himself. What's his talent? As far as the world is concerned, writing and performing music. Now maybe Cobain was the star quarterback in high school, and had serious NFL prospects. I don't know. This is what I've got to work with.

So the following line, the one in question, "Our little group (or tribe) has always been and always will until the end." Linguistically, whenever you use a linking verb there should generally be something that it links to. "I've always been." Well, been what? I guess it could mean the simple act of existing. Or does it refer to the previous line about being blessed. The little group that he's a part of has been blessed with the same gift.

[I see where he was going with that, but alas he didn’t go there. This has been fun. Again, I’m more interested in the process. I said, “How do I fill in several missing days using material that existed prior to those days, and I came up with this. Yes, I’ve written a lot of new material to flesh it out, but I covered a lot of subject matter that I never would have by just writing from scratch. So neat. The final bit will be technically new material, but... well you'll see.]

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