SONGFACTS for the album Literature
Bit of background on the songs of ADP's Literature by Lesley Ann Fogle
These songs were recorded in transition on a ProTools HD2 rig and an Mbox Pro. Having worked at high-end commercial studios I was conditioned to believe that I needed all the bells and whistles to make an album. But I've been doing this a while and decided that positioning frequencies is what's most important to me and to go forth. Literature was mixed in the box with mostly Waves Gold plug-ins, using reductive EQ, limited compression, and no kind of auto-tune or vintage emulators. The vocals are mostly first takes with of course overdubs for harmonies or layering. I wanted a very earthy, clear sound that held an element of calm and would not become dated-sounding. Here are some bits on the individual songs.
ADP loves this book. Bulgakov's Master and Margarita is heralded by many as one of the greatest classics of the 20th century. The devil and his entourage visit atheistic St. Petersburg under Stalin's dark rule and madness ensues. A second storyline follows Pontius Pilate 2000 years ago during the time of Christ. I won't get into a longer summary except to say that this satiric novel deserves it's recognition. We originally intended to focus on the the train scene where Berlioz is decapitated. But the melody line came first and the syllables dictated the words along with obvious landing vowels. With that in mind, the line "Only Margarita will recover me" sprang up and stuck. And while not someone who lets bios inform my opinion of writing, the story of Bulgakov and his wife Yelena deepened my appreciation of Master and Margarita. I thought of how much Bulgakov was criticized and panned and how he burned his first draft, but Yelena was always there for him. The song steered itself to circle around deep support and keeping on with one's art. Yelena published Bulgakov's masterpiece twenty-some years after his death.
The Devil Takes a Hand
Another mutual favorite is Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. It has alienation, isolation, pride, murder, guilt, and confession over madness. Constantine (Costa) studied the original book like 20 years ago as a Russian Lit major. While re-reading it, scenes and specific lines kept jumping out at him and re-appearing like revelations. Musings led to a chord progression and inklings of a vocal melody. He and a friend went through the notes and finished the lyrics. Costa heard my voice with the Mal Vu feel on it and made a beeline for me when he heard I was back in Ohio.
It's the first song I worked on with Costa and his brother George Hondroulis (The Flying Hondroulis Brothers) since moving from Chicago to my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Family stuff called me out of gotham and landed with my mother, who suffered from mental illness, losing her eyesight to diabetes. I stayed awhile feeling both helpless and responsible. Built a temporary studio with a gospel producer while reeling from culture shock. This musical collaboration was the highlight of what felt like exile. I would do this song differently now so maybe it was meant to go down like it did.
My father read a lot of Joseph Campbell's books and as kids we watched The Power of Myth series. Most people are aware of Campbell's writings about The Hero's Journey which influenced George Lucas' Star Wars. The hero[ine] goes through harrowing turmoil to reach a kind of transcendence and bring back the power to set people free. A big message of Campbell's is finding your own personal myth. Explaining natural phenomenon and tapping into a transcendent source to explain the unnamed and the unseen. Speaking in the tongue of metaphors and eternal mysteries to retrieve that connection to source and stand in awe, bringing the sound or vibrations of it to words or song. As I see it anyway.
After I started with the tom heavy tribal-inspired drums these lyrics spilled out as did the song which was recorded and mixed in the same weekend. Costa's bass playing on PB adds an element of cool that may expose rockers to these ideas. And his piano progression on the journey section really added a powerful build and bridge back to the end. He really threw a lifeline on that one. We don't have a guitar player...all of those trailing sounds are effected vocals.
Costa wrote the first version of Raygun while watching footage of Ronald Reagan's funeral. George W. Bush had been president at that time while the United States was embroiled in controversial military conflicts and the economy was heading toward major upheaval.
We listened to several of Reagan's speeches, including A Time For Choosing in which Reagan tells the story of Americans proclaiming, after hearing a Cuban refugee's story of escaping Castro, "We don't know how lucky we are." Lucky because of the American "idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people." Reagan went on to use said idea to argue that the government does nothing better than the private sector. Basically that government services should be privatized. While we both believed in the idea that government is beholden to the people but were not convinced that private interests were beholden to the people. We got to talking about how, for the first time, the highest office in the country was held by a celebrity whose background was not in public service. Then we discussed whether trickle-down economics had worked.
To take a break from all of that thinking, we watched Bedtime for Bonzo starring the hunky young mega-star Ronald Reagan and his side-kick chimpanzee. Bonzo was the best monkey actor. *nods to Bear of BJ & The Bear* ..I realize this leaves out Clyde who was technically an orangutan.
In Bedtime for Bonzo, Ronald plays Professor Peter Boyd who brings a lab chimp home to test a "nature versus nurture" theory that "even a monkey brought up in the right surroundings can learn the meaning of decency and honesty." The premise of Bedtime For Bonzo came from a real-life study by Robert Yerkes, a Yale psychology professor, who specialized in the development of primates. Yerkes also, funny story, became the "Expert Eugenic Agent" to The House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Please look him up along with his intelligence testing.
After all was said and done, we decided to dedicate Raygun to the beholden manual of the people, the Constitution.
For the recording, we knew we wanted to have a lush wall of voices singing great big harmonies representing the voices of the people. But all I could hear were the same vocal formants so we brought in two Columbus favorites to add texture to the partsfrontman Lizard McGee from Earwig, and frontwoman Nikki Wonder from the Bloodthirsty Virgins.
The Sea & Earth Gave Birth To Wonder
After working on The Devil Takes A Hand we (Costa, George, and I) got together in Columbus. George had this cool pianorgan and presented a very catchy almost carnivalesque sea shanty riff that reminded me of some writing I'd started while immersed in Scottish romantic poetry.
Burns, Gordon, Byron, Sir Walter Scott,.. I channeled that feeling of using language that flows like smoke: "Tis true, my dear, she's calling. Tae wimble her weaving loom. The boat sways in black waves tethered frae fallow tae toom."
I do read modern books, by the way.
Sea & Earth is about where the water and earth meet; a marriage like that of the love that stays while the other goes out to sea. At times waiting but an always requited, connected, and enduring love. There's not enough of that in this world.
My mother bought me my first old book, a collection of Shelley poems, from a library sale when I was a kid. With the leather-looking embossed cover, I was sure it was a lost first-edition worth thousands of dollars. Favorite poem was Alastor: The Spirit of Solitude. It's the kind of piece you spend years unraveling. How powerful when someone's voice speaks directly, almost empathetically to you and pops up at odd times like a placed cookie crumb. How'd that get there? It got through the side door of the brain with lyricism. Like the brain gets tipsy on a complex serenade and stumbles around oozing plasticity before passing out and leaving you with eternal information.
My mother had a great love of reflection and I believe she thought nature spoke directly to her. She passed away recently and is on my mind a lot. I carried this book to her funeral like it was my psalm and let it inspire me to write Memory Remains. She was a storm and I've always been a mostly controlled storm.
Costa had a guitar part that he wrote around the time his own father passed on. It only made sense to combine our stories in this song. The setting is upon the grave and I think the rest is pretty clear in the lyrics. We borrowed a nicer guitar from our mastering guy and I would have re-amped the sound if we had a decent guitar amp but instead looked through amp plug-ins and settled for a sound. It's tricky finding the right guitar player.
To The Body In The Clay
I wrote these lyrics while healing from trauma. BITC is about owning your experiences, examining, and allowing even suffering to change you for the better or at least broaden your capacity for understanding. It is about coming out of what I call the psychic sludge to identify soul, source, and collective. The reference to "the clay" follows the clay origin myths and also the body sharing elements of the earth in composition. I use it to mean that which holds the immortal side or the energy that might go on forever.
With my gear at the temp studio, I recorded this in my bedroom on an old ProTools TDM system I hadn't thrown out. Sang to a loop then cut said loop to fit the vocals. The plan was to edit it into a more accessible song, but I developed scratch-track-love and decided to keep all of the lines from a poem I'd written about The Realm of the Unconscious. It was pretty artsy and the first person to put bass on it played pretty safe long notes. I had a lot of that type of musicianship in Mal Vu because I think people didn't know how to improvise more like a score for the story. I shelved the whole thing until Costa and I started working together and had some breakthroughs on our process. He did a couple of songwriting passes on and I kept saying: No, I don't want you to play along with my weird song. I want you to add your own voice to it. Move in and out to carve your rock groove. He nailed it and I started mixing his sound differently as a result. Bass is featured a lot in our songs because of his strong voice.
This lyrics for this song are a direct adaptation of Walter de la Mare's poem Vigil. I looked past the archaic language and adapted it for modern accessibility but didn't try to modernize the tone. It's about deep love and deep loss. Last minute we took the instrumentation away except for Costa's ghostly bass and filled a bit of the space with the vocal la-la-la bits.
Here's the original poem next to the adaptation:
Vigil by Walter de la Mare
Dark is the night,
The fire burns faint and low,
Into grey ashes go;
I strive to read,
But sombre is the glow.
Thumbed are the pages,
And the print is small;
Mocking the winds
That from the darkness call;
Feeble the fire that lends
Its light withal.
O ghost, draw nearer;
Let thy shadowy hair
Blot out the pages
That we cannot share;
Be ours the one last leaf
By Fate left bare!
Let's Finis scrawl,
And then Life's book put by;
Turn each to each
In all simplicity:
Ere the last flame is gone
To warm us by.
Into Grey adapted from Vigil by LAFogle
Here in the night the fire burns low
Hours into days into years
and into grey faded ashes go
I try to see your face
but somber is the glow.
And slow the fire
that lends its light to no one’s desire
I only feel your eyes
Your eyes know
I can’t look away
I can’t let go.
Dark in this night and you again,
you’re like a ghost
Your holy stare and shadowy hair
block out the light we cannot share
Oh, the one I love.
In The Sun
George and his former bandmate Jacob from Evil Queens recorded on this in George's practice space with a single mic and I want to say on G's laptop? It was a bouncy room with neighboring bands bleeding through and, as I recall, no toilet paper in the bathroom. The plan was to use this as a scratch track and to refine the song but, though I liked his playing and loved Evil Queens, I didn't form a connection with the guitar player. This take was phasey as hell and I had to work at it to get a sound. But it works and is a unique recording that reminds me of live warehouse shows from the late 80's. Lo-fi is not my thing but I can see how it works with the style of the music against the artsier vocals.
I wrote several songs based on books for Mal Vu and we were originally going to include the song Graveman on this album. But the Mal Vu songs are considerably darker and dated so we replaced it last minute with the rushed recording of Picking Bones. Other Mal Vu songs we considered re-doing for Literature were Alone Again Tonight inspired by Charles Bukowski, 3 Ravens arranged from Traditional Folk Text, Good John adapted from John, you're my husband's man by Anonymous, Black Swan text by Menotti, and Hush Hush adapted from A Lullaby by Sheila MacCarthy, set by Sir Arnold Bax
There are eight Mal Vu albums we are hoping to release in the not-so-distant future. Putting this album out was a lot of work combined with way too much waiting. We're about halfway through writing the next ADP album so we'll ride that until a break is needed then I'll pull up the Mal Vu final masters and digitize them.
If you're reading this, thanks for reading this. And thanks for listening. If you like ADP's work, please leave a positive review or at least star ratings and let us know you're out there out there out there...