Music Story: King's Cross
Our song has been getting some pretty good reviews on Garageband.com but I quite often see comments about the vocals in the first verse "sucking" or being shakey. That's lead me to believe I should give an explaination why I sang the parts the way I did and therefore expand on the full meaning behind the song. Initially I preferred the idea of not giving my exact story behind the lyrics as it would limit the ideas for a new listener, however this song is kind of important to me and therefore a full disclosure is in order.
The basis for the music of this song began from a long rambling jam we started on Christmas Eve 2005. It was initially titled something clever like "U2" in reference to the guitar part with all the dotted 1/8th note delays (at the end of the final arrangement). It sat on the hard drive for almost two months before I could find a way to expand upon the initial ideas. Essentially we had the outro - the section where we're singing "Don't give away or take away the innocence" (Isabelle's lyric idea by the way) - but without the vocals. All our rough ideas were on hard drive but nothing made any sense yet. It was in February that I re-approached the song and deconstructed all the parts. The ending was pretty cool but that was all we had, no intro, no verse, no chorus, just a really long rambling and poorly played jam. In attempt to find something better I stripped it down to a single maraca hit and sat in front of the computer monitor staring at the Logic arrangement which was barren for two minutes until it moved on to the section we'd first written out. This seemed daunting. However in effort to try something different and knowing full well that we didn't have a single song in waltz time I changed the beat to 3/4 and let it play: just the maraca on every quarter note. Rather minimal to be sure.
From the 3/4 idea I then clipped a single note from the guitar track and put it on every 1/4 note. Add a dotted eighth delay to that with a lot of regeneration and suddenly it almost didn't suck. Add delay to the maraca and put in a live shaker and it created movement. Still no music though.
The little piano part was born as a joke, I just put it up and started fooling around and that music box part came out. It was so evocative that I renamed the working title to "Ballerina." From there things quickly started lining up. The pizzicato strings seemed almost mandatory to accompany the plinky piano part and then a track of the Rhodes piano also going through a DL-4 pedal with tons of regeneration added to the ambience. A guitar part was added that is deceptively simple. It's just an arpeggio of A falt major going to E flat major, but let me tell you, playing that kind of thing in time and in tune without any glitches is a challenge (well for me anyway, I am a self confessed crap guitar player though). So now we had an interesting waltz to open the song, cool, but what next?
I was stuck at that point because I knew we needed to somehow shift from 3/4 to 4/4 time in order to glue the front to the back of the song. I confess that next a bit of borrowing from the Arcade Fire came to my rescue. Their song "Rebellion Lies" has a stunningly simple octave piano part that pounds through the entire track. So maybe if I just started playing eighth notes on the A flat octave I could blur the line between the opening waltz time and the straight 4/4 time. Made the appropriate time changes in Logic and tried it out. That worked. Added in some temporary programmed drum beats and it seemed interesting.
Unfortunately it still didn't fit with the ending part. Or maybe it fit too closely and that seemed dull. So the middle section was born next; the "morning came too soon" part. I've worked with quite a few bands over the years and one of them was a local rock band called Tourist. Their guitar player, Andy (don't know his last name – sorry Andy) had a habit of writing his middle eights always starting on the II chord. It always seemed to work for his songs and I didn't know why. So, simply because it was something I didn't often do, I tried it and voila, it worked for our song just as well. The section seemed exciting and powerful and was a very dramatic change from the opening sections. Add in some bigger drums and it really started to seem exciting. The timed delay guitar part was a bit time consuming to complete but with the aid of several punch-ins and a not so restrained amount of editing, it found the light of day. I think I put in some synths to fill out the bottom end but in the end I just pushed up the bass guitar and made it big.
Now we could finally arrive at the outro section and it all made sense. Whew. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea what the hell the song was about!! So we sat on it for a week and brought it up again. Still no ideas. Another week went by, still nothing. In hopes of discovering something brilliant (and in frustration with all the blanks in my own head) I mailed an mp3 of the rough arrangement to our friends Barry and Ingrid in London. (Ingrid Schroeder – she has a fantastic new album soon to be released, do yourself a favour and find it when it does come out, it's very lovely – I'll let you know when it's out). Unfortunately they were away on vacation and missed my email for almost a month! In that time I'd unearthed the lyrics on my own but they still managed to become involved anyway!
Well it's almost 3AM and this is a longer story than I thought so I'll continue on with a part two, no point in making your eyes tired and your bottoms square with all this text! Good night and thanks for reading this far.