Music Story: For the Glory (repost)
Current mood:accomplishedI was ever so shamelessly listening to our record again tonight and I heard For the Glory go by. It occurred to me that this was one of our biggest songs and I hadn't gone into an extensive blog about it yet. How absurd! Afterall there are probably more vocals on this song than any other on the album. It's got a fucking football chant in it at the ending for godsakes, how much bigger can you try to get!
For the Glory was born as another song entirely. It was formerly known as All Awake Now, which had a strangely cryptic lyric that only made sense to me. The reason that song existed at all was due to Isabelle having a fashion show at the Vancouver Art Gallery and we wanted to play our own music for when her stuff came on the catwalk. All Awake Now had a good beat and a pretty cool vibe, and therefore became the likely candidate to use. This would be late summer, early September 2005. In desparation I pleaded that I couldn't possibly play the guitar on the song, at least not well enough for people to hear! So Isabelle called on a favour of one her staff, Megan from Limblifter, to ask if Ryan Dahle could help us out. That'd be pretty cool you know. 'Cause Ryan is the guitar player from Limblifter and before that, Age of Electric. AoE was a harder rock band and he was a shit hot guitarist from it. And now he was going to play on one of our songs. Not bad. (I had met him once at the PNE when Blisterene opened for Age of Electric. He seemed nice enough.)
The night he came over was following our seeing Sigur Ros at the Orpheum Theatre. Sigur Ros (if you'll allow another diversion) was and still is one of my most heartfelt bands. They were the band that brought me back into loving music instead of just treating like a job. There were a few other important things involved in that, but Sigur Ros were pretty massively instrumental. So we had just returned from seeing that amazingly artistic band from Iceland (is every Icelander a genius?) play at the Orpheum, where they'd had a beautiful and passionate show, and in great inspiration called Ryan over to play on our track!
He arrived in Megan's volkwagen after confimring with me that I had no guitar amps in the house. I'd offerred him a chance to play through my Pod guitar simulator but he inferred that he'd rather eat his own shit than play through one of those, or something to that effect. So he dragged in a vintage AC-30 amp, and his 70's something telecaster. Was it? Hmm.... whatever, it was a great old guitar with all the road mileage on it and the amazing tone only cool old guitars seem to have. I then explained that I had no vocal booth or anything other than a stupid room divider that could basically reduce the noise from the computer by about 5dB. We set the amp behind the divider, which was about as effective at giving us seperation as putting it behind a curtain: to say not very much at all. I threw a 57 on it and went 9098 to 1176 to the convertors. Sounded good as far as we could tell but we were fighting the sound from the amp with the sound out of my monitors. Who really knew?
Ryan listened to the song and started messing around on the first listen. We recorded everything. Some of the cool ending guitar parts were from that very first pass. The guy's good right? I mean, a real, full blooded muso, so it was cool to hear his ideas. The second pass he came up with the opening Power chord type part. What's amazing about that is no-one has been able to replicate that part yet. Admittedly on For the Glory I've got two very subtly placed guitar parts underneath his part, but the actual opening part Ryan played has yet to be figured out. I wonder what he did?
Then, in the original form of All Awake Now, I think I had a spot where I was considering a little instrumental break, maybe a solo. So I asked Ryan to try to emulate the way he'd played on one of AoR's songs called "Untitled". In that song he played in a really jagged and staccato way that was fucking cool. The coolest thing about the song really. So I insisted that he try something like that, shouting at him over the din as we approached the part where the solo should come in. Interpreting what I meant, he smashed out what is now the guitar solo after the long rant section. It's amazing. I'd be surprised if anybody ever plays it like that again. I mean Marc Wild (who plays in our band now) is a brilliant guitarist in his own right, and I totally love his playing, but even he hasn't truly figured out how to come close to it! I mean that's great right?! How unique!
Then, I probably had him jam about until the unfinished song came to and end. I think three amazing guitar lines came out of those rambling ideas. It was a gift.
Anyway, in order for All Awake Now to be long enough for Isabelle's fashion show I cut in a tiny section from David Bowie's Fashion song, to make it like a remix. After a breakdown it cut Duran Duran's Girl's on Film before returning to our original vibe and then glueing all three together for the finale. It was 13 minutes long and should have been more than enough time for the girls to walk the catwalk with all the costume changes . (It was - by five minutes). After the show we left the song for a while.
At Christmas we were doing a review of where we were at that point. I think both of us had reckoned we might be finished writing the songs by then: afterall it was eight months since we'd first started! How long could it take?! As December arrived I realized we weren't there yet, the songs weren't good enough or formed enough to merit going into a real studio. So we were listening to the tracks and came up to All Awake Now, (sorry, that's even a bad title isn't it? no wonder it sucked!) and both of us gave each other a look of, "god that's boring." So I started muting tracks, one after another until I was down to just the beat and a couple guitar parts with only two vocals going. Oh, and just you know there were at least twenty vocal tracks going in the mess at this point. We never thought small on this album. I decided almost from the first month that we were making a massive orchestral type of record and there would be no shortage of vocal harmonies on it! So we cleaned up the mix and realized there was only one good part to the entire song: the ending. So I went about muting sections until we had nothing but the ending.
Working backwards I set a loop in the 16 bars before the breakdown. The out of desire to do something obtuse I chose to try playing the bass in the minor above the tonic. It worked, it was weird and awkward enough to be interesting: so now we had something else to add to the song. Initally we'd allowed only the football chant part, but had no lyrics or melodies. Now we had the middle eight too. Playing the song, starting from the top, Isabelle was instantly bored and kept wanting to hear only from the middle eight. So we kept the triumphant intro guitar parts Ryan blessed us and then had nothing for sixty measure or so! I was essentially starting from scratch again.
After the anthemic intro, the song drops down to a solo guitar part playing a sort of retarded Led Zepplin riff. The sole advantage to being a limited guitar player is you can't actually play any of the riffs from the famous guys because you suck. So you make up your own versions of them. That's what that guitar riff is to me. My attempt to be Jimmy Page! Ha ha. (...and it's out of tune too)
For whatever reason, the rest of the arrangment happened as though it were all natural: the bass drop out, the second "verse" like bit: notice there is no verse-chorus structure at all really. It just builds into the guitar break and then shifts to the B minor bit, then down to the football chant break and build up. It didn't make normal song sense but it was really clear to me - for some reason, I don't know why.
I don't remember the order of how the lyrics were written whether the "This is for the glory, this is for the pain" part was figured out before or after the verses. I will say that Isabelle's part on her own was written in much later: after I realized that every song on the album required some special part where we HAD to feature her voice. The middle eight lyric came after my brother Gary criticized all our songs for being the same. Sort of two verses and then a lot of choruses for ever and ever. He was right. So I therefore added a middle eight to No Problems; another to All Together; and finally, Isabelle's vocal part to For the Glory. I think each is better for their respective updates.
At this point the arrangement was sorted out and I'd programmed all the drums for the song pretty much exactly as I'd hoped them to go. I think we even had the lyrics written out by then too: all except Isabelle's bit. They are:
"Is there a sense of wonder,
how we got in this world
Is there no sense to question
how to make an effect.
'Cause when you're face with a problem:
how to make a change?
And you're given the answers
but you still fail to act.
When there is nothing more than what you say to block you
on your way
from finding out just who you are
when you are looking for a
of the future
there's no way out
of your past
and don't you wish that you were jaded, broken hearted, emancipated
in nine months you were educated, a lifetime now to be frustrated
and don't you wish that you were failing, to hold you back from liberating
all those thoughts of infiltrating, the tired dreams so wrapped and waiting?
This is for the glory
This is for the pain."
After we recorded the drums at Mushroom we added in Isabelle's lyric:
"If you stand on your own
I think that you'll see,
we're not as far away
as we're lead to believe."
And that was the song. But the real fun came in the studio. In the demo we already had both of us doing several overdubs of "hey-oh hey-ohs." They sounded kinda cool but a bit like a feeble pub-crowd singing along to the television. So when we went into Mushroom we arranged to get eleven friends in with us to help sing on the gang vocals. So after Isabelle's part you hear another eight tracks of us singing the "Hey OH's" in stereo in the studio. Eighty-eight voices, which then have another eighty-eight voices singing "THIS IS FOR THE GLORY, THIS IS FOR THE PAIN!" on top of them! It get's pretty big! Of course I had to add in the original vocal tracks from the basement too; I mean they were the inspiration afterall and they actually made it sound even bigger! Sometimes more is actually more you know?
Oh wow, I forgot to mention that Jesse Smith drummed this song. I think it's his best performance on the album. He managed to understand exactly what I'd written in the demo with the programmed drums, and then improved it by twenty with all his subtle reinterpretations to it. It was impressive. He nailed it on the first take. I think we did three, but I probably kept the first one because it was so inspired. Another amazing performance! When he got to each section he made the right move, raised the dynamics a tiny bit with a subtle change to the kick pattern or the hi hats, and then upwards once more for the next section. The guy understood this song implicitly and it came out on tape. I think I may have edited in the middle eight from take two though, it made that change have a more jolting feel to it. Great drumming all the way around (his best on the album). The outro was so joyful with groove and abandon; it just sounded great.
Wow, another crazy thing: I'm listening to iTunes in the background as I write this and The February March's song "The Time For Talk" came on and I heard Nick's bassline in the break down. So it was Nick that showed me the obviousness of the off beat eighth note bass line; I do that all over the record including the end of For the Glory. Man, you can never tell where you learn things from.
So the song was done; we had all the ridiculous amounts of gang vocal overdubs to ensure there was something massive to the ending, Jesse's drumming and Ryan's guitar sections. I'll admit that when I finally got around to figuring out the keeper guitar parts for the song I was blown away at how cool the guitar sounds Ryan had given us were. Remember we couldn't actually tell what anything sounded like when we recorded. We were blasting ourselves away, all in one room at two or three in the morning, hoping my neighbours wouldn't actually hear it very well. Just a bit of denial going on there. (THANK YOU Herb and Janet for your tolerance and patience. Everyone should be blessed with such fantastic neighbours.) However I then had to finalize all the other guitars myself. Thankfully by this point I wasn't as shit on the instrument and they started to sound good. I'm actually a bit proud of the high funky telecaster part in the middle eight. It was the first part I played on a Tele'. Right away that guitar just made that sound and I recorded that part. (I should've bought it). The rest all came quickly too. Mix time was fun, trying to fit all the parts together. Madness. After listening tonight I realized just how many parts there were in the arrangement. It's crazy. But really fun. The only reason I think they all work together is because they are all so ridiculouly simple, and simplistically played, that each glues into the next part. Each line has the ability to fit against any chord in the progression. I'd love to write it out one night and look at them all. Silly stuff.
Wow, I've entirley lost the plot tonight and gone incredibly muso. Sorry, but I think it was in kind of respect to what we've done. It's still catching us a bit off guard, what we've created on our album. I mean this whole thing began because we wanted something to do together! And now it's getting heard around the world on the internet, played on national television, and hopefully we'll have a blinding show here in December.
Finally, if anybody that reads this blog is connected with the FIFA people, or more specifically the World Cup guys for the UK teams, could you point them to this song please! I mean that football chant alone would help ANY English speaking team win the cup - don't you think? Then add in the lyrics: it's brilliant. And that's not what the song is about at all either. So it's cool!
Right on, thanks for reading this: if you've made it all the way to the end, you're my kind of person. Normally I'd apolgise for it being so long, but hell if you're reading THIS you've obviously got patience and probably enjoy books too! Cheers!
p.s. I think this song is totally about Isabelle and I deciding to do all this. We didn't know it at the time but I think it is absolutely our battle cry. This is for the glory, and hell, we'll take the pain too if we have to! The ride is WAY too fun.