Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 5)

I've wanted to be in a band with Ed Woltil since the mid-1980s, when he and his band Mad For Electra regularly shared local stages with my old band, The Headlights. Being a three-piece, they didn't have an overly powerful sound that knocked you over with its bombast. Theirs was more of a sound that quietly sat you down and gave you a serious talking to. Every show was a little clinic on how to execute smartly crafted, punchy pop songs with wittily literate lyrics and fabulously catchy melodies of the sort that would have done Elvis Costello or Glenn Tillbrook proud. It might been irritating if they hadn't been such a likable bunch.

It was always obvious that Ed had something special about him, and even after our respective bands folded, and though our paths wouldn't cross for another 20 years, I still held out hope that we might work together in some capacity. Of course, we never did end up in a band together, but here we are, a quarter-century later, finally collaborating on an album to be released on Sunshine Drenchy Records sometime this, century.

As far as progress goes, well, we're making it. Oh, there's a way to go yet, of course, but the songs are all written, and recording is underway, with several of them closing in on completion. As far as the songs go, it's a real mixed bag of goodies. There's a love song or two, a little goofy pop, and a dollop of snarky social commentary for balance. Looks like there'll even be a pretentious instrumental snippet or two thrown in for good measure (Hey, if it's good enough for REM...)

One of the best things about collaborating with Ed, is that if you give him a song to work on, he always manages to add something thrilling to it; something that's so appropriate, that it almost feels instantly familiar. Like it's the embodiment of a fleeting idea that you once had, but were never quite sure how to finish. I'll be sitting with headphones on, listening to his parts for the first time, and I'll find myself grinning and nodding my approval, thinking, "Yeah, that's just what I was thinking should go there". Only I'd probably never really thought it at all. Some people always seem to say the right thing; Ed always seems to play the right thing.

Yes, aside from an occasional lapse in judgement when choosing collaborators (ahem), the man has impeccable musical taste. But more than that, he also has an almost childlike sense of adventure, of the sort that can have him scavenging about for strangely wonderful sounds to paint the song up with. So often, he'll come up with something that instantly sets a song apart, without it losing its way. It can be a delicate balance sometimes, but he seems so sure-footed, I'll trust him every time. He can tell me that he's found an old sample of a medieval percussion instrument that sounds suspiciously like a metal chain clanging against a rusty portcullis, and I'm totally on-board with it. I feel pretty confident that when he flies it into the song, it's going to make a competent track sound bloody amazing.

I really feel privileged to be working with the lad, and although I've no idea what the reception is going to be for this record, once it's done, I do know that I've never enjoyed the process of creating music more than this. It's exhilarating enough that I sometimes feel compelled to smack a rusty portcullis with a metal chain just for the joy of it.