Desperate Times: The Making Of A New Album

Hey there!

Whew, I’ve been busy. Long hours at the restaurant, transitions in relationships, musical excursions, and extreme circumstances of change, confusion, exhilaration, depression, and ultimately, progression. Musically, I feel the strongest I have ever been – my new songs are some of the truest songs that I’ve ever played; the compositions are incredibly challenging for me as a guitarist. I feel like I have risen to a new level of writing and playing – I’ve run these songs over for miles and miles, and still they feel new each time I play them. Recording will happen soon.

My new album: Desperate Times

Due Date: TBA

Songs:

1. Desperate Times
The title track; an instrumental arrangement, with my lap slide drenched in fuzz and distortion, raw and raucous, with stoic and solid drums by Jason Mongo Blaustein. This was the first song I wrote on the lap-slide after the car accident. It’s a pretty solid way to start my 4th album.

2. Orange Grove
A short song that was created long before I knew it, rediscovered while walking down Orange Grove Avenue in Los Angeles. While reaching through the archives of my mini handheld recorder, I heard a tune that I don’t remember having ever played. Since my recorder is exclusive to only myself, I had to have written it – I just don’t know when or where. Regardless, the tune stayed with me, and I wrote more onto it later that week. It is one of the hardest songs to play, compositionally speaking. Pull offs, hammer ons, rhythmic picking, all sets up for a very beautiful song, if I can make it through without any fuck ups. This song is about drug addiction.

3. Culver Blvd.
A song written by my younger brother Gregory, on the piano, while we were living together in a small apartment on Culver Blvd near Marina del Rey. Also an instrumental, I was a witness to the transformation of this song while Greg worked on it every night. When he left Los Angeles, my heart was broken, and I was left without a recording of his song. I had to teach myself the melody, and transfer the entire song to my guitar. This track is not the same song, but it will have to do for now. Eventually, I might have a recording of Greg’s version, on the original instrument.

4. Teen Spirit
A previously untitled cover song, written over the course of three months. This song was a catalyst for my insane leap into a more musically active lifestyle and world. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t think about anything except this song, and the words just came to me without thinking. I didn’t write the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. I didn’t have a choice in making the song what it became. I feel like I am just the instrument, and this song plays me.

5. Bonni
This is a song that I wrote when I was twenty, about heartbreak and darkness. When I wrote the music, I was lying in a tent on a beach near San Luis Obispo, with my first love. The chord progression came into my head, and I sank into the sand and disappeared into the deepest sleep that I have ever had. The melody had no words. The words came half a year later, when I walked away from the first girl I had ever loved, and fell into a world of intense confusion, abandonment, homelessness, and addiction. I wrote the words into a blue notebook, sleeping in a camper in the wintertime. The words and melody finally mixed together in a cheap hotel room that I was living in, while the Colorado snow fell, and the heat in the room was turned up all the way. Six years later, this song still rings true, not for the same girl, but for a few others that I’ve had and lost since.

6. The Drug Song
I wrote the first verse, and the chorus, while fucked up, sitting in my living room on Richard Ave. in Durango, Colorado, surrounded by friends just as fucked up, if not more, than me. Later on in life, I got sober for three years. Then the car crash. Then the relapse. Then this song. Featuring Andie Evans on bass and harmonies, she was actually the push that this song needed. I ran through the short, incomplete song for her, and she sang “Co-caine. . . ” and I wrote the rest of it later that week. What I like about this song is that it doesn’t mess around. There’s no euphemisms, or beating around the bush on a topic that is really prevalent in society. I think it’s brave, and I also think that a lot of people will have a problem with it. If so, great.

7. Broken Girl, vol. 2
I love this song. With Jason on drums, we worked it into a whole new track. Worth putting on the album, no doubt. It rocks harder, and the quality is different from Broken Girl (on 1984 Sessions, 2012).

And there you have it. Possibly out of order, these are the seven songs that I will soon be able to share with anyone who wants to listen.

Talk soon,
Casey

Notes from my journal, January of 2014:

I want to write about the process that went into making Desperate Times. It took forever to record, through months of heavy drug use and sleeping around, losing money and writing, living day to day in a perpetual stupor of the clouded and intoxication-infused lifestyle that stunk of cigarettes and alcohol and speed and prescription pain pills; sweaty days of my body trying to purge itself from the poison that I administered to myself daily, and never coming clean.

And then there were the songs that came about in the time period of nights that snapped into days without me ever closing my eyes, for three or two days at a time, awake: Teen Spirit came into my head under the ocean of heavy drinking and hot rooftop sun; Orange Grove was a lullaby about drug addiction, which had taken it’s toll on me by the time I wrote it.  Broken Girl was a dark, driving, dirty blues rock song that took forever to record with the drummer, as did the title track, the opening track of the album, Desperate Times.

I scheduled recordings, and I couldn’t follow through; once there was a mixup at the studio and they had to postpone a session; once, I had made arrangements for a drum session, and then a cancellation ensued. Time and days and weeks and months passed by with a violent speed, while I slept on the beach, fucked girls, played guitar, worked and did drugs, drank alone in my apartment, fed Oswald (my tortoise), took out the trash, and wondered if the recordings would ever materialize. And all the while, I was playing these songs, all these new songs, hundreds of times over, perfecting them, making them move and breathe with the life I was living, playing them in the myriad emotions that came to me during those truly desperate times.

And when I went into the music studio with Brian (the engineer) and Andie Evans (bassist and vocalist), we recorded ‘The Drug Song.’ That was the first song to make the album, although I wasn’t sure at first. The song is explicit, much like myself, and all the drugs contained and mentioned therein are drugs that I have personally tried time and time again. It could be perceived as a take on modern culture and the truly pathetic war on drugs, and what that’s done to our society, but I don’t think that the song bears that much weight.

Later, I would record all the final acoustic tracks in a single night, where once I warmed up,  my fingers were warm and fluid and wet and knowing and graceful and focused. My songs came out polished, pretty exact, tight and together.

There was a surprise that came at the near end of the actual recording: ‘Sleep.’ I hadn’t played or even thought of this song for months prior to the actual recording of it, which was put together with two takes. I had written this song years ago; it was the first song that I had written after moving back to California, and whenever I played it, mostly in private, it was like a prayer, a meditation, a deep breath of truth for me.

The life lesson that I learned during the entire recording process of this album was the virtue of patience. When I had none, nothing got done - but the practicing that ensued during the lull in recording time had actually been the most beneficial part of the music—by the time I played in the studio, every song was ready, and when I let go and let the great magnet of the earth guide me along, I was able to accomplish more than I ever expected.

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