Sunday, August 12, 2007

Philosophy Revealed...revealed

Hello there...

For those of you who followed the link from the Brazil sites, welcome back. Hopefully you find this useless compendium advantageous to whatever sorts of research and book reportery in which you may find yourself involved.

For those of you who happened to happen upon this page via happenchance, maybe via someone's blogroll, a blog carnival, or by googling your own name (you vain creature, Mr. Revealed), the following is a behind-the-skull look at an album created by the band Brazil (b. July 12, 2000 d. Aug. 18, 2007). Hopefully you enjoy - and if you do, please leave comments.

Leave comments if you don't, also.

Bloggerifically yours,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

On Safe-Cracking and Rubella

The opening track on The Philosophy of Velocity is actually a minimalist piano version of a crazy psyche-freak-out song that didn't make the final cut for the finished product. (It's a shame because I listened to it earlier this afternoon and was blown away.) We wanted to set the mood from the get-go with an introspective Amelie-inspired etude that also established the Author theme. The typewriter was recorded at a farmhouse in rural Indiana with a condenser mic over the top of a Woodstock brand typewriter from the 1920's (it was an ebay find) that looks like this:

It's unbelievably heavy, and I sometimes use it as a door-stop or to keep the trailer from rolling. I bet it would also really mess up your car if you ran over it. There's a point on the track where the clicking stops longer than usual, and that's where a bunch of keys got stuck together and I had to reach in and get them back to normal as smoothly as possible. And for you audiophiles with $200 headphones, you can hear Aaron's ghost guitar murmuring underneath it all.

I remember writing this on my laptop one freezing morning in Ottawa, Ontario. The actual version on the record, however, was recorded using a real flesh-n-blood piano and I'm honestly a little disappointed in myself because I played the part in two passes – one for the right hand part, and one for the left hand part. (Nic, virtuoso that he is, has since learned to play both parts with both hands).

And now you know…the rest of the story.

Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Crime and the Antique Solution

The first thing you should know is that the title is a blatant borrow from the Australian, Birthday-Party-member-having art rock band Crime and the City Solution. Change one word and voila! A song title! The relationship between the two doesn't have anything to do with anything, other than the fact that I heard the band on Wings of Desire one day a few years ago and thought it was a rather handsome group of words that played well together.

The second thing you should know is that we don't condone the use of time traveling portals, wormholes, or any other machinery that would make such a feat possible, without first consulting with your family quantum physicist. If you're a subscriber to the Grandfather Paradox theory (or in modern terms, The Marty McFly Conundrum), the changing of past events would cause current circumstances to change. Hence the phrase, "I'm fading away…"

Musically, Crime was a no-brainer. Other than a guitar being run through a leslie, no strange or experimental recording techniques were employed. I vaguely remember the verses (which are in 7, if you were wondering) being in some way influenced by an old Genesis song, but I can't remember which one. It's definitely not the one with the drum fill that goes doo-doom doo-doom doo-doom doo-doom BAP BAP! I was really proud of the "fading away" section, mostly because I was able to throw in what I call a "pink" note – a single note change that brings a minor chord around to being major, and therefore in a much better mood.

One of Fridmann's major contributions to this song was the middle noise section. We had never really thought about making that section sound nearly as chaotic as it does. I don't know how many guitar tracks are smashed in there, but I do know it's a lot. Dave loves him some freak-outs. And we have come to the realization that it can be a lot more fun than actually playing music.

Incidentally, there were two separate mixes posted at different times: the noisy, psychedelic Dave mix, and a cleaner, radio-friendly mix. If you were observant, you may have caught it…

Any questions?

Warm, safe, and dry...
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

You Never Know

You Never Know is a mashup of a lot of different things I like: the mysterious phone calls, episodic amnesia, and midnight rendezous of B-movie noir; the creepy and sometimes paranormal storytelling of Nick Cave and Tom Waits; abandoned things, especially theaters; mysterious women (who breathe loudly into the phone); the list goes on. Oh yeah - Meta-detective? Watch I (Heart) Huckabees and you'll see where that came from.

One of the most gratifying parts of being in a studio like Tarbox, is that it is actually a studio in the artist sense where band and producer work in a completely collaborative relationship, unlike some studios that can sometimes feel more like a factory where the producer takes on the role of the foreman. (We've fortunately never experienced quite that extreme of a situation on any of our records, but we know of some bands who have.) Take for instance this episode, where we were trying to find the perfect guitar tone for Aaron's rhythm part during the verses of this song. It went something like this:

Us: "How 'bout this?"

Dave: "Hmmm. Nope."


"Perfect. That's the sound."

It never would have occurred to us, but we loved it. And for what it's worth, at any point in the record, we could have tried this:

Or this:

Or this:

But I digress.

James even had a hand in the rampant experimentation, fashioning a percussion instrument out of an industrial farming implement. That metallic "gonk" sound you hear in the middle section that replaces the snare drum is actually a blade from a disc plough with a tambourine mounted on top. James may be from New Jersey, but he knows how to strike a chord with us corn-husking Midwesterners.

That instrumental section, in my opinion, is the jewel of the song. I still love listening to it on the album (and I usually hate listening to our albums after about the first month), and I love being enraptured by it every time we play it live. To me, it's a perfect dreamy mixture of Strange Times-era Chameleons, The Joshua Tree, and Disintegration-era Cure.

As for the singin' parts, I always thought it would have been really cool to put an AM radio-style effect on my voice during the verses to give them a little more flavor, but for one reason or another we ran out of time to explore those kinds of possibilities. The half-spoken delivery was somewhat of a nod to The Fall, which makes the song fun to sing live, but half the time I wish I would have come up with something less barky and a little more melodic. Just trying on different hats, you know? (Plus I'd need two more decades of gin and scotch to pull off a halfway believable Mark E. Smith…although for what it's worth, You Never Know is one of two songs on PoV where my memory of tracking it is more than a little foggy, thanks to the plentiful spirits Thursday and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah left behind.)

Also, the chorus was more or less directly inspired by Sly and the Family Stone's song Thank You. Keep that in mind, Trivial Pursuit players.

Enjoy the rest of your Hump Day,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

The Vapours

If you said you had the vapours in 1865, it meant you were in a depression, feeling faint, or otherwise hysterical. It also probably meant you were a woman, or at least were wearing a corset at the time. I'll leave it up to you to decide what was on my mind when I wrote it.

The Vapours, as we all know it, underwent several major renovations, and probably sets the record for number of re-writes (Breathe probably comes in at number two), before we finally settled on a version we liked. Like Crime, the recording process was nothing fancy. For the most part, the first half of the record leaned toward routine recording procedure, with some exceptions, while the second half of the record indicates where we started to get a little crazy with the microphones – and where the Revealed Series will start to get fun.

James in the drum cave at Tarbox.

First, we tracked the song live, followed by basic overdubs to correct bass and guitar mistakes. Piano and basic vocals were next. Pretty standard stuff. Then of course, Dave had to chime in and say, "We need more noise!" So part of what you hear in the mix (you true musicians will be saddened to know) is a single low guitar track (or maybe it was two) of pure unadulterated guitar noise. Scratch that – very adulterated guitar noise. No melody. No harmony. Pure feedback chaos.

The piano solo was somewhat of a milestone in composition for me. I set out to find a convincing 7-bar cabaret break, then proceeded to mix it with a little, I dunno, Danny Elfman or something, and what we all ended up with was Killer Queen as performed by Gomez Addams. Nic and I are both able to play this, and will sometimes trade off halfway through just to show how b-b-b-bad we are.

Gomez Newby

One of the album's unifiers that you might not have picked up on is the use of the Almighty Backward. (You thought we raped the 70's enough…we stole backmasking too!). There are several places on the album where we reversed tracks, and there are three instances in The Vapours alone. The first is with the "ghost" strings after the piano break. (Fun fact: those strings were from a live recording of our 2001 Conquer instrumental set with the Ball State Symphony Orchestra). The second is the "ghost" backup vocals on the third verse. You probably can't tell by listening, but trust me, they're backward. And the third is the "ghost" whispering that fades in at the end of the track. I could tell you exactly what I was saying, but I think I'll wait until another edition.

Til then…

Au revoir,
Jonathon Christopher Newby du Brazil


I always thought a good idea for a psychological thriller would be where a guy gets followed (or thinks he is getting followed) by a character in the films he watches. Not in real life, but every time he goes to the movies, he sees the same character, like some offscreen extra, staring at him creepily until he finally goes crazy and knocks off a bank teller or something. Who knows how it would end, but I think there might be some cool possibilities. Plus, it would go great with a Rod Serling voiceover. What I'm trying to say is, this is what Cameo is about.

This is what the outside of Tarbox Studio looks like. To the north is trees, to the south is hills, the east is more trees, and to the west is Keystone Light.

With Cameo, we went into the studio with a song I felt only mild attraction to, and left the studio with a song that seemed to make sense. With a little coaching from Dave and his handy Casio reference keyboard, we added lots of sweet layers in the vocals, plus lots of tasty guitar noise throughout, but ultimately the actual recording process for Cameo was fairly straight-forward and more or less boring, so here's a picture of Philip partying with Mogwai while we were there:

Scotland vs. USA!

There is one point I'd like to make, however. Those of you who have heard a lot of our past stuff may have been surprised to hear the mixing approach we favored for PoV. We chose, and not with a little controversy, to go with a very live, very peaked mix, and had you been in the studio with us whilst mixing, you would have been amazed to see all the red in the meters. Cameo is one of the most "clipped" songs on the record, and we felt this new approach gets across the rawness, the energy, and the danger of everything the new record stands for. Incidentally, the "loudness war" is a controversy in itself within producer circles, and At War with the Mystics has been pegged as a major offender. As well as Thursday's A City by the Light Divided, and CHSY's Some Loud Thunder. Notice a pattern here? Where there's controversy, might as well be in the middle of it.

Otherwise, my favorite parts of this song are the chorus, which is an homage to Blue Oyster Cult (at least with the guitars), and my vocals, which I think fucking rule. Srsly. One thing though, I would have really loved a shiggy-shiggy tambourine over the guitar solo, but I failed to think of it at the time and the other guys more than make up for it in awesomeness and rockity. (Edit: Believe it or not, the first line of the song is a take on Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. "There you are, you're there." I'm being totally serious here.)

Yep, Courtney Cox.

Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Candles (Cast Long Shadows)


I thought I made up that word, but then a quick googling showed me that an ectophiliac is one who is infatuated with the works of Happy Rhodes, Kate Bush, or Peter Gabriel. So in other words, outsider pop for working professionals. Well, I tried anyway. I really wanted it to describe a lover of ghosts. But alas, it was not meant to be.

Long known as our "Velvet Underground" song during the working-title days (although the sum total of my life's decadence threefold is barely enough to fill a day in the life o' Lou) Candles was mayhap the biggest aesthetic leap for us, or at least for me as a vocalist.

I remember putting it together from a 4-track sketch out of something that had spawned in Aaron's brain, and I tried and tried for a long time to think of the most appropriate vocal melody for the verses. After multiple failures, I finally resolved to just talking the words. It felt strange at first, but after a few runs I realized that it was a lot of fun to sing, because it was less about singing it than it was about acting it. And I took it all the way, too, dropping all "proper diction" in favor of Indiana diphthongs and Hoosier-iffic syllable-adding. And maybe, just maybe, that's how I normally talk anyway… Here's a picture of me sippin' on the studio porch if you're unsure:

Some people have criticized Candles as being a bid for mainstream acceptance, and I can tell you that's far from the truth. Yes, it was written with the intention of being simple, and yes, the lyrics do recount a Neil Sedaka love story of sorts. But given that it's about a dead girl, it kind of loses its chance to be the soundtrack for this spring's prom. Plus, there's the part at the end where Aaron channels Adelaide the Ghost through his pickups. Let's see Maroon 5 do that.

Oh chorus, how I love thee. Sometimes in the studio, the best thing to do is just keep adding on layers and layers, not really knowing what's going to come out, and in the end you either have something brilliant or you have a pile of crap, and the chorus of Candles is one of the loveliest piles of crap I think we've ever created. I had this vision for when we played it live where there would be a marching band onstage with us, but it unfortunately never happened due to uncooperative band directors and stage dimensions. Ultimately, I would have been happy with these ladies:

But alas, it was not to be.

Oh, the story: a guy falls in love with a ghost named Adelaide who haunts his apartment. She was a 23 year-old who asphyxiated from a gas leak almost a hundred years ago (although I never really nailed when the song itself takes place in real time). It's fairly straightforward, and I'm sure anyone with a firm grasp of the English language could glean it. No analogies or moral lessons here, except maybe "ya cain't…al-ways….get…watcha wa-ant…"

One last thing, if you paid close attention to our goings-on a few months ago, or if you are a gamer, you probably already know that Candles was included in the last installment of SIMS. I looked around the house to try to post it on our player instead of the real version, but I couldn't find it. But it's really funny. I actually had to talk to a dialect coach to make sure I sung it correctly in Simlish. I will find it one day, and when I do, I will post it.

But for now, it's not meant to be.

Carbon-datedly yours,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury (pt. 1)

So I tried uploading Mr. Mercury to the player, but the file is too big. Hmmm...coulda seen that coming, I guess. So we'll have to pass on the audio portion of the lecture. Also, I decided to do this one in two parts. Part one is about the story, and part two will be about the music. Enjoy!

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury is essentially a rumination on the essence of purpose, hope, and personal security, and the implications of their absence, especially to those who rely on the fulfillment of such needs from outside sources. Balancing that "weightiness" is an absurd cast of steam-powered, nonthinking thinkers caught up in an absurd set of circumstances in which they must find a solution equally as absurd.

Not Mr. Quick, but looks a lot like him.

Following is a list of characters and how I envisioned them in my mind:

Mr. Mercury - A tall and slender steam robot with a cast iron frame and a monocle firmly bolted over one non-seeing eye. He was built by the illustrious patent team of Smythe and Tinker, esteemed inventors world-renowned for their major advancements in time and energy saving automatons for the modern home.

Mr. Quick - A short, fat mechanical courier with a body shape centered around an enormous forward wheel. An older model from an earlier day, Quick left a trail of oil wherever he went, and required frequent scheduled maintenance and repairs.

Mr. Arm - An assembly line robot with a giant arm-like appendage, no head, and an archaic tank tread assembly that allowed for his mobility. Mr. Arm had no mouth, but would instead communicate entirely through body language, and sometimes the use of signs and props.

Admiral Tom Gabardine - A retired rear admiral of the Merchant Marine Academy, and the owner of one of three existing Mr. Mercury Mechanical Manservants. Admiral Gabardine treated his servant very well and always brought him in for his scheduled tune-ups on time, if not early. He had a big white Hemingway beard and smoked a pipe that smelled like expensive sherry with a hint of apple.

Smythe and Tinker - The ingenious engineering duo responsible for the invention of the Mr. Mercury Mechanical Manservant, and possibly the other two automatons. They may or may not be the same Smythe and Tinker from The Land of Oz, though the former is actually spelled Smith. Both men have long since passed away, or disappeared, and if you believe L. Frank Baum, Tinker built and climbed a ladder so tall it reached the moon (then pulled the ladder up so no one could follow him), and Smith painted a river so lifelike he fell in a drowned.


No one knows what kind of cataclysm befell the planet that caused every living human to disappear. By all accounts, there was no destruction to property or landmarks, and everything appeared to be otherwise in order. Except there were no people.


Not Smythe and Tinker, but looks a lot like them.

Robots have an interesting life. Their existence is defined by the orders they receive from humans. Robots like to be told what to do. If this were not the case, they would not be robots, but furniture. If all the humans in the world disappeared, would the robots have a purpose? Would they be able to serve themselves? These are crucial questions, ladies and gentlemen, for you never know when you might find yourself in an existential crisis much like the ragtag gang of steam robots before you now.


Our timeline follows the trio from Mr. Mercury's last day in servitude, when he returns from an errand in town, probably to buy more baguettes or restring the Admiral's lacrosse crosse. He finds the car still running in the drive but no one there. Holding back his panic, he sets out to find others, namely Mr. Quick, whom he finds by following his trademark oily treadmark. Looking to Mercury for consolation and reassurance, Quick asks where all the people have gone, but Mercury is unable to answer.

After finding Mr. Quick, the two explore the city and hear a distant rattle that sounds like an alarm clock stuffed inside a pillow then dipped into a barrel of syrup. (This is the international distress signal for robots who believe themselves to be in danger.) After locating Mr. Arm, the threesome press on in search of hints of life. Looking to Mercury for consolation and reassurance, Arm asks where all the people have gone, but Mercury is unable to answer.

Not a young Admiral Gabardine, but looks a lot like him.

Mr. Mercury musters up his courage and declares that he will find the Admiral, hoping the Admiral will restore the stability of purpose he now finds of himself completely bereft. Amidst the pleading jeremiads of the others, he soldiers on purposefully, yet without purpose. Finally, Mr. Mercury succumbs to his panic and begins to appeal out loud for someone, anyone, who could use a few good robots.

Then, defeated, he lowers his head and utters, "We are alone."


The three walk dejectedly to a hill just outside the city overlooking the sea. Somber and grave, the three decide to simultaneously pull the switch on one another, each having lost the will to live. They form a circle, whisper a three-count, then shut themselves off.


Somewhere in a very quiet world, full of quiet cars and quiet houses, three quiet robots stand motionless on a hill by the sea still wearing their manufactured expressions, clear as the day they were made. They stand until the sea eventually swallows the city and the salt water eats away their metal skin until nothing remains but the ancient coals in their bellies, killed by the silence.

Next week: Part 2 (the music)

Quite the scrapper, arntcha lad...
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury (pt. 2)

Essential to our Philosophy studio experience were the overnighters. Without them, we wouldn't have half the record we left NY with. When we arrived at Tarbox, Dave made it clear that when he left for the night (we stayed at the studio), we had free reign over the myriad of mics, knobs, and other producery knick knacks at our fingertips. He put it this way: "It doesn't take a genius to put a mic in front of something and press record." Well, I guess that's a good thing for us then!

So most nights, we stayed up until dawn broke out over the Catskills, recording any idea that might possibly pop into our heads after six pots of coffee and a case of Keystone Light. Interestingly, Dave offers this to every band that records at Tarbox, but very few apparently take advantage of it. This fact amazed us. Imagine getting to catch a ride into space and the head astronaut-guy says hey, wanna take 'er for a spin? How could you not?

The Periodic Table of the Elements: my neverending wellspring of inspiration.

Anyhow, a lot of Mercury was recorded overnight, particularly the vocals and a lot of the keyboards. Aaron would sit in the control room (he slept there half the time), and I in the live room, and we'd record track after track of the vocals until we had literally dozens of tracks during certain passages of the song. Especially on the "Our serial numbers are etched in our thumbs" part. That's me, 40 times.

Because the song is so segmented, we recorded the rhythm tracks in pieces and stitched them all together. But lest the purists think this some sort of cop-out, we performed the song live during our Blizzard of '07 Midwest Tour with Wax on Radio. And we didn't walk off the stage during the middle section while a backing track played to flashing strobes and smoke machines.

Speaking of the band that did, however, I'll make no pretense that we didn't go to great lengths to model Mercury after Bohemian Rhapsody. We most certainly did, right down to the Brian May homage in the middle section. And ultimately, if you couldn't tell by the Mechanical! vocal break, you were either born before 1920 or after 1995. Either way, it's probably your bedtime about now.

Not to say that I think we gave Queen a run for the money – far from it! Even with Bad Company-guy, Queen can still kick the living dookie out of any band today, including Brazil. What we wanted to create, though, was a magnificent album centerpiece on our own terms, as ridiculous as the 70's were tacky.

All our dads like this song so we must have done something right. Xanadu, but with pianos.

List of instruments used in Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury
(This list may be modified by other band members, on account of my faulty memory.)

-Drum kit
-Electric bass
-Electric guitar
-Upright piano
-Grand piano
-Fender Rhodes Electric Keyboard
-Concert Chimes
-Vocal chords + 1 helium tank

(I kid.)

Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Captain Mainwaring

A lot has already been posted regarding this track, including a live version (which can be watched here), a director's commentary version with Aaron narrating (which can be downloaded here), and a Japanese version (which will be heard on our player soon). I think one of the reasons there's been so much thought on this track is that it's one of the furthest stylistic reaches for Brazil to date.

The entire song is three notes, and the lyrics are essentially a quaint character study told in basic rhyming couplets. Quite different for a band somewhat known for Yes-like keyboard noodling and lyrical abstraction. I guess you could say this was a reaction to all that.

My lyric sheet for Captain Mainwaring.

Mainwaring was also perhaps an indicator that we'd grown tired of exhuming progressive-rock clichés. We struck upon the idea that a song could be complex, even with a ridiculously simple melody and structure, depending on how you filled the space between the couplets. It's sort of like the difference between filling a canvas with a defined reproduction of a still-life image, or filling it with dribbles and splatters of paint to form an abstract yet cohesive whole. Not trying to say we think we wrote some Pollockian objet d'art, but we did go into the whole thing embracing randomness and happy accidents of sound.

This was another overnighter. Like I mentioned before, parts of the album were recorded late at night after Dave left with one of us (usually Aaron) sitting behind the board. Mainwaring, in its entirety, was recorded this way. We're pretty proud of the fact that we did the whole thing ourselves. In fact, this song is supposedly the one that sealed the deal and locked Dave into producing our record. And for that, we are thankful.


Always Always Always,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

A Year In Heaven

Little known fact: A Year in Heaven was recorded with two kick drums. One was miked and played, the other only miked.

Neil Peart aside, there are a few things I really like about this song. Firstly, the nine-part chorus. This was made by singing every note in a scale and then muting certain ones at certain times, thereby making our own chords during mix down. It was such a great idea, I took a note of it for when I make my own award-winning record some day.

Secondly, if you're listening through headphones, or on a very expensive and sensitive stereo, you'll hear our bass clouds during the middle section. Philip tracked some random drone notes, which we then dropped about seventy octaves until it was nothing but a heart-palpitating UFO-hover-pattern sound that spills out of your speakers like warm Play-doh.

Little known fact: A Year in Heaven was tracked on Eric's birthday.

In celebration of this, we only tracked for half a day and then hit the local watering hole to meet up with Mrs. Fridmann and the guys in Mogwai for drinky treats. BJ's, as it is known, is a little place on the main drag of the two-stoplight Main Street of Fredonia, NY. We went there a number of times during the recording-making, and Nic actually left his Mai Tai-flavored calling card on the sidewalk outside before crashing out early in the van and waking up to a splitting headache no amount of coffee would cure.

Little known fact: A Year in Heaven references the Civil War, doomed aviators, suicidal Golden Era actresses, and the Allman Brothers, among other things.

I've often fantasized that if our budget were endless, I'd want to shoot a video for every song on the album. I have treatments written for them all, but unfortunately I don't think another video is in our cards anytime soon. But just pretending that one were, I've always seen Heaven as a visual feast of Moulin Rouge proportions. Imagine, if you will, when the chorus kicks in and you see a wide overhead shot of several dozen atrociously dressed singers, lifted straight from Ziegfeld Follies It really is a condensed three part play (that doesn't really exist), so, in theory, it could be very easy to storyboard. Now I just need a high school drama club to help me flesh it out…

Any questions??
Me too,
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Remarkable Cholmondley Chute System

Happy Hump Day everyone...hopefully your humping is going well.

We are on the home stretch for the Philosophy Revealed series, or Phil Rev, if you prefer to use a much cooler Generation Z slang-shortening style, like when people say My Chem, or 'anic at the Disco.

So without further mon dieu...

I had absolutely nothing to do with this track. Regretfully.

This is what happens when you have two guitar players who are brilliant in their own right, working together late at night, under a mountain of pedals and couch cushion forts, while an oblivious singer wiles away the midnight oil playing Tumblebugs on the floor above. This is what happens when you let guitarists grab you by the hand and convince you that one can't EVER possibly listen to too much Robert Fripp and The Orb.

The Bridge.

We knew that the album would require a segue piece, so to speak. A short bit that would say, "And now, for the final act." I had a few things in mind but nothing concrete (one unmixed idea that didn't get used is up on the player), so when Eric said he had something he wanted to try, I said what the hell.

The Remarkable Cholmondley Chute System (pronounced the British way, as chumley) is based on a part of Crime. See if you can tell which one. It's the noodly dream of a guitarist left to his own devices, as well as other devices made by Danelectro, Roland, and Digitech. This, one of my absolute favorite parts of the album, is yet another bout of subharmonic octave dropping during the length of this track. One could really rattle one's speakers with this one if one were so inclined. One could also possibly cure a fit of one's constipation if one really needed it.

Eric writing one for the laaaaadies….

Obviously, because there are no words, there is no story to tell, other than to say that in my grand scheme of things regarding my forthcoming book, The Remarkable Cholmondley Chute System is a snaking remnant of waste disposal convenience, a fossilized hollow worm of forgotten and soot-blackened modernity. As you listen to the track, you can probably visualize a slow camera crawl up the twisting, turning pipage weaving endlessly behind the rotted walls of an ancient building collapsing one brick at a time.

Bye Tickle!
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Appalachia


Some time ago, I mentioned that Breathe was the song that set the record for amount of re-writes, and this is still correct, with a total of about 5 different versions before we settled on the one you can purchase at your local Best Buy.

Philip in the lotus position.

Version one had something to do with a boy nobody liked named Savrola Wriothesley. He makes a giant robot in his garage to terrorize all the kids that give him a hard time. It came to me some time after the 57th listening of What's He Building? by Tom Waits, and maybe one too many viewings of Chopping Mall. Which is one.

Version two is a bit foggy now but I think it had to do with someone stumbling upon some sort of clandestine now-you-see-it-now-you-don't vampire meeting of some sort, kind of like a mix between a creepy Levi's commercial from the late '90s (with modern vampires living in a NYC factory loft, wearing stylish jeans), and a 1935 short story by Arthur Machen. Weird Tales fans take note.

Then there were a couple other versions that attempted to milk various episodes of Tales from the Darkside and The Outer Limits, but we ultimately decided we could get by with some simplified lyrics that didn't go too far off the deep end, and certainly would have nothing to do with Bush's Machinehead. Though we do love the 90's!

What Breathe looks like live. Note tambourine. (Pic by Kendra Griffiths)

Musically, Breathe was an idea spawned by Nic, and like Cameo, was recorded in straight-forward fashion. Most of it was recorded live with little to no studio-trickery, nor the ubiquitous noise track, at least until the dance party outro. This was the first song we heard roughly mixed through the Tarbox monitors, and I remember it making me smile like a stoned hackysack. When I commented on it a few days later whilst hanging out at the Fridmann household, Mary (or Mrs. Fridmann, rather) said matter-of-factly, "Dave can do rock." To which we all ululated a manly, "Hear, hear."

(They know.)

Verily verily,
Rev. J. Christopher Newby of the Glorious and Blessed Nation of Brazil

Strange Days


Hey kids! Jonathon here, back to give you your final dose of jibjab on teh PoV. In this edition, I'll be shedding as much light as possible on my state of mind whilst writing the words, while Aaron will whip up a tasty piece on the music side o' things. I spent a lot of time trying to make this make sense, and in that regard, I feel like things make even less sense than they did before. Thus, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment. Y' follow?

Shall we dance?

So here we are, having finally arrived at our final song in the Philosophy Revealed series, and I feel great. Stretch your legs, take a deep breath, and relish in the fact that you have demonstrated the guts and stamina to endure an intensive and bloody dissection of our latest labor of love.

Strange Days is a lyrical map of moist brain droppings from honorificabilitudinitatibusly yours truly. It's a saturated blotting rag soaked in whiskey and ether with a soupçon of blissful panic and intestinal fortitude thrown in for good measure. I'm going to level with you all and let you in on a little dark secret - an interesting quirk I've come slowly to understand about The Jonathon over the past three decades (and I say interesting like I'd say Goddess Bunny is rather interesting). About 4-6 times a year, my grey matter slips into what I call an acceleration, my name for a slightly altered state of consciousness lying somewhere between a panic attack and an adrenaline torrent, historically resulting in a racing pulse, tense muscles, aimless pacing, compulsive repetitions, ridiculously short fingernails, awkward relationships, thought trails floating in a myriad of white fluff, mental cul-de-sacs, and sweat-stained notebooks filled with lists, gibberish, and scribbledygook. It's nothing like a major meltdown, but it's during these bouts of sideways cerebral sparking that some of my very best (and very worst) ideas are born. I suppose I could eat the mints to get rid of it, but when I'm able to harness this racing gorgeous ghost I truly feel like I'm living as a consecrated being, riding the wave as if on a divine Six Flags log ride at terminal velocity. Thus, this velocity has become my philosophy.

So where does this ride out to the perimeter usually take me?

Photo by Michael Rain.

When you're young, you think all the gaps in your knowledge will eventually get filled. But I find the older I get, the less I know. I used to think that to be in the adoring spotlight, you had to be really smart. But I've since found you may stand more of a chance at being successful if you're really dumb. (You just have to be pretty and surround yourself with people who are smart, and evil.) I've also come around to understand how incredibly steeped the world is in chance and luck, even though we look back in retrospect and try to retro-fit it all into patterns and causal relationships. Time epochs, spheres of influence, and tectonic movements of man and his machines are disjointed, slapped together slapdashedly, and purposeless at best, leaving behind a wake of book burning billionaires and starving toddlers, almost as if reflecting the subconscious daydreams of a detached trust-fund deity stuck in an interminable snooze in the middle of Applied Omniscience 101.

Hence…I embrace the ridiculous. My religion is the Absurd, and I preach it with all the pomp and cockswagger of a Channel 32 televangelist. My spiritual advisors are Magritte and Mitch Hedberg, and if you had the chance to see us perform Strange Days live, then you, my friend, were enlightened, blessed, and otherwise inducted into the Holy Hallowed Halls of Farcical the Musical, proselytized to from atop a stack of subs and crowd barricades.


The lyrics to Strange Days are a collection, of sorts, of the random synapse syntax that occurs during the psychorrhea party mentioned above, culled from the pile of notebooks stained with axle-grease and ass sweat and the used napkins that sit on my desktop until I find time to compile them all into a handy sterile Word document whose file name I usually forget very quickly. Rather than explaining each line (a lesson in utter futility), I thought I'd toss in a few page links to get the ideas across and let the lyrics give their secrets themselves. Be sure to find all the Easter Eggs! (And Happy Easter.)

There's a room inside my finger
Where the ghosts of authors linger
There's a little man who whispers
In a radio transmitter
There's a lady on a spider
With a baby's head beside her
There's a voice inside my earlobe
From a place the sidewalks don't go

These are strange days

There's a man with an umbrella
Who is smoking citronella
And he sees fantastic visions
Of the world outside my prison
There's a fountain full of ashes
And a snake beneath the grasses
And he's asking everybody
What makes them melancholy
(formerly: to a deadly game of bocce)

My language is a patois
Philosophy's in my boudoir
My heads in Constantinople
And my body's in a bubble
I'm a Rosicrucian lackey
In the Ministry of Peculiar Things
I will tell you my secret
But only if you keep it

But enough about me, why don't you tell me about your day?

Jonathon Christmas