Thursday, May 31, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Writing songs with Mike Bullshit

(for those – if any – who are interested)
Having a band again forces me to write new lyrics and y'know, I love it. There were 3 years between when GO! stopped recording new material & No Mistake came together and since I didn’t have a reason to write, I didn’t. But needing lyrics makes me open my eyes and my mind, allows me to creatively process everything going on around me. Having that awareness back is awesome.

I mean, I’m just always frikkin writing lyrics. It doesn’t turn off. I was listening to a pledge drive on the radio on the way home a coupla weeks back and just wrote this. It’s all worked out with stanza, YOT-style moshy chorus build-up, bridge to chorus. I knew right away how it went and how to sing it.
Pledge Drive
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In the past I sang everything I wrote (over 100 recorded songs). But it is really different now cos Greg sings like 80%+ of the time, and there’s only some songs where we share vocals. So my focus is not only what subjects to write about but how he would make the song his. I need to be careful because I can sing faster if need be (I’m one of the few who can sing “Pay to Cum” and get all the words in), but he sounds better at a medium pace so I need to put a point across more succinctly. With GO! I tended to sing kinda “off” from the music at times, which I have to really resist when writing for No Mistake. And I need to figure out which parts I do sing – and not to make them too long cos he’ll be bored just standing around when I’m singing and he’s not.

On the songs where we share vocals the mix really is great, like on We Stole Hawai’i. Our singing voices are so different they work well off each other - both in the chorus we sing together and the seperate parts we individually sing. (Here's We Stole Hawai'i.) I’m definitely into giving each of us blocks of text, not going back and forth line by line. (Usually not so into when bands did that.) Sometimes I’ll sing the back-up / sing-along part. In an ideal world all you out there will knock Greg down and grab the mic to shout along at that point.

With GO! Aaron and I split the music writing – often he would come up with music and I’d whip open my book of lyrics and make something fit. Or we’d combine a stanza part he wrote with a chorus part I wrote and pull together a bridge or intro and that would more or less be it. I miss that. At this point I write like 90%+ of the music so there’s more pressure. Trying not to make all the songs sound the same really pushes me. I have to pay more attention to the guitar parts and song structure than I ever did before. I’m happiest when an absolutely killer part evolves, like the middle section of Crossed Words. In our video you can see me moshing with my guitar during the bass intro (at about 8:00). Coolest thing I've written in a while.

So what have I been writing about? We Stole Hawai’i retells our overthrow of their traditional government in the 1800’s. Unlucky You is my wildlife conservation song. Expiration Date is about the pollution and nuclear waste we’re leaving behind as our legacy to future generations. We Are Enemies is the “Hey, asshole!” song I never got a chance to write. FBLA is about the next generation of 1%ers. Crossed Words is about humanity’s need to know the answers to all possible questions. The Death of Democracy in the United States is about the Supreme Court's horrendous Citizens United decision. I need some fun songs, too, I know. And of course Pledge Drive... :^) Here's some No Mistake songs to listen to.
Y'know, it's not tough to write a "Well, ok, this is what sucks and this is why and here's a mosh part and see ya later" type song. Unlucky You, departing from this, ends urging the listener to take action and support those doing conservation work. There are real people acting now to make a change. Like WildAid. And I'm working on a song about respecting people and looking up to them. But it's tough. So much easier to write something bitchy, isn't it?
Anyhow, whatever.
Note: When I say "write songs" that generally means guitar & vocals. I usually have a sense of how the basic beat should go but not always and have relied on the awesome drummers I've played with to come up with their usual stuff. And I usually leave it up to the bassist to do what he wants.