The Muses Affecting My Next Book.
The song holds the distinction of holding the top two slots on the British singles charts simultaneously. You’d never guess while listening to the brilliantly orchestrated “I Am the Walrus” that when John Lennon first played an acoustic version of his song “I Am the Walrus” for his bandmates and their producer George Martin, the room went ominously quiet until George asked him, “What the @#$% am I supposed to do with that?”
I read the story in a biography written by the audio engineer from many of the Beatles most famous recordings and gave kind of a fly on the wall take on the band and their process.
I’ll give more information on this book later, but first, the reason I bring it up, is because it’s just one of many small stories that’s served as an inspiration to my writing in By Fang or Feather.
I’m as interested in the stories behind the art as the art itself, so I thought I’d share a few insights in to how I came to be committed to writing By Fang or Feather (or Fang for the rest of this article) and some of the muses that have lit my path while I furiously work on finishing the book.
The idea for Fang was initially a response to the work I saw ahead of me while writing the sequel to The Gospel of Wolves, Episode One. I kept feeling like it was going to take me too long to finish it, so I should write something less ambitious and easier to turn around to buy me some time to make The Gospel of Wolves, Episode Two what it needed to be. That is to say, my plan for Episode Two is to wrap up all of the questions posed in the first book and from the Heirborn Rangers Membership on my website.
I thought I’d found the blueprint for what I was going to do after reading a Kindle Single entitled “Beacon 23: Part One” by the author, Hugh Howey. The story was a fast read, but it had the depth of character I was looking for. The concept would be similar to the aforementioned book about a life recording with the Beatles since it would be told from the point of view of the recording engineer. Since the book would be taking place in the studio, it would give me the opportunity to finish the recordings of the songs that the book would talk about. Kind of a literal soundtrack of a band on the verge of collapse following their drummer’s suicide.
I had the beginnings of all the songs already recorded as well as lyrics for half of the songs already worked out. “It’ll be quick and easy,” I lied to myself. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so much a lie as an unwittingly huge departure from reality.
Even the title, “By Fang or Feather” took about two weeks to come up with because I wanted a title that would reference The Gospel of Wolves without it being Episode Zero. After throwing away a good thirty or so titles, it finally came courtesy from me getting poetic with the idea of fight or flight.
As I began writing the book, the circumstances leading up to them going in to the studio started to get real interesting and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from complicating my life with that thing called vision. I started seeing possibilities and before I knew it, I got myself pretty severely lost with what the story wanted to be.
This contest of the creative got its start back in July of 2015. 2015!!!
Since then, I’ve had many creative muses dancing across my awareness. Yes, pieces of the story will recount a few of my own experiences blended in to the narrative, below is a few of the inspirations on my mind right now in case you might be interested in checking them out, or simply seeing what I stole from who once the book is actually finished.
Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles
I’m a Beatles fan. Have been since I was a toddler who wouldn’t stop singing “Love, Love Me Do”.
This book, is written by the Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick who was responsible for the distinctive sound of Revolver and engineered the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road and on and on. It’s an amazing look not just at how the Beatles classic songs came around in the studio, but also an interesting insight on how the band members behaved in the studio.
HOW IT RELATES: My first entry to art was music. I play guitar, bass, keyboards and used to sing with a three-octave range, but quit that because I have to work so hard to keep my voice up.
From my first guitar lesson, I was writing songs and now have something around 100 of them taking up space on my harddrive with another 10 worth recording, that are still buzzing around in my head that I just haven’t committed to recording at all yet. As lessons go, as a teen I took Rock guitar (yes, I believe in solos), Jazz guitar, Classical guitar and Blues guitar. Rock, opera and gospel singing lessons were also in there. As a whole, I draw from every musical genre I’ve ever encountered at some point or another. This helps me for finishing these songs off in character and doing so for six to eight songs for the Fang soundtrack.
I say six or eight because I’ve also put in some time producing, engineering and mixing for other artists and have selected eight songs for the preproduction stage. Meaning, these eight songs have been chosen by the producer in the book to be recorded. I’m writing the band’s experience in the studio based on a mix of the character arcs and my real life choices finishing the recording of all eight songs and determining which ones are good enough to make the final cut.
They always say to write the story only you can tell and at least conceptually, this is one I’ve finally accepted I have to tell. It just took me a while to understand how I need to tell it.
The Daily Adventures of Mixerman
Have you seen Spinal Tap?
This book is Spinal Tap, but in the studio as told by, you guessed it, the recording (audio) engineer. One of the funniest books I’ve read.
He doesn’t bludgeon you with tech speak. Instead, he gives you a front row seat for the disaster of a bidding war band’s first turn in the studio with an infamous producer and a limitless budget.
HOW IT RELATES: For me, part of what made this book such a great read (aside from the side splitting comedy) was that the technical jargon was at a minimum. Mixerman has a knack for explaining gear and it’s function in layman’s terms that I’ll continue to reference for ever and ever.
At Last…The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland
The movie documents the creation of Jimi Hendrix’ double album, Electric Ladyland.
Song by song, the movie takes you back to the time the songs were being recorded along with anecdotes about the band members themselves and the tensions within the group.
The stories are told by the Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and co-manager Chas Chandler along with rare archival film footage and photographs. Never before released alternate takes and demos are examined by Hendrix’ engineer Eddie Kramer while Steve Winwood, Mike Finnigan, Buddy Miles, Dave Mason and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady detail their contributions to the record (with instrument in hand to demonstrate).
HOW IT RELATES: Just as Jimi went in to the studio with a vision, so is Cyrano Jones the primary songwriter in Flame of Halos, the fictitious band in By Fang or Feather. Because of the nature of the crime committed by the Flame of Halos drummer, Cyrano understands this may be the last record he ever makes and he intends on making it a singular artistic statement.
Some of the stories and sound experiments have inspired the way I’ll be approaching the book once the band is in the studio.
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Not a fan of their music during this era of their career, but a great film nonetheless that captures the band at probably their most vulnerable point.
The raw nature of not just how the band members relate to each other, but how they relate to an ex-member jealous of their success and the fear they clearly have at the prospect of potentially becoming irrelevant was moving for me.
HOW IT RELATES: As I mentioned before, the fictitious band, Flame of Halos is in trouble. But stories bore me when there aren’t layers to those involved. I like the idea of seeing both the light and the dark in the characters. The nuances evident in The Gospel of Wolves will also show up in Fang.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This movie has nothing to do with music.
But those character nuances I just mentioned. Damn, but this movie shows them with an expert’s touch without ever making me roll my eyes and say, “The only reason I didn’t see that coming is because it’s so far out of character!” That’s right, the movie was completely unpredictable with what was coming next, but still managed to bring us deeper and deeper in to the characters lives. Both their light and their dark. See above for how this movie relates. It’s more of the same in creating characters that breathe on the page and threaten to rest in your heart.
Well, that’s about enough for now. All the above are highly recommended.
Have some recommendations for me? Something you think must be read/heard/seen? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear about it, music related or not.