Killer Robots Can Love, Too

This robot just needs to be loved
As any reader of this blog knows, I like robots.  In fact, they're one of my favorite inspirations when I write music.  And no, I don't really know why.  Regardless, my lastest FAWM song is a country ballad sung by a poor lovelorn horrible killer robot.


Loved By You
My Visual Input Sensors Start Leaking Coolant When My Memory Banks Retrieve Playback Of You


(Amanda helped me edit these lyrics to make them better.)

I was made in a laboratory
I guess by now you prob'ly know the story
Made of wires, and metal fittings
Built for revenge, yeah I was born to kill things
My instruction set is "maim, kill, destroy"
I ain't got the moves like all them human boys
But I know this much is true: I just wanna be loved by you

My first mission was quite successful
I remember the headlines so well
"Killer Robot On Murd'rous Rampagel"
They put my picture all across the front page
But afterwards I just felt empty inside
I took no joy from all the thousands who died
I look back on that with rue...but I just wanna be loved by you

I got a saw where my hand should be
I got a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth
I got infrared to see all through the night
But without you, girl, something just ain't right


Now that I've got you, wrapped up in my arms
Don't you worry, cause I'll never do you harm
I'll squeeze you so hard so that you can feel
My love for you dear human is so real
Oh no, looks like I'm squeezing you too tight
Your tongue is hanging out, your eyes are losing light
And even though you're turning blue...I just wanna be loved by you


A Love Song

For this FAWM song, I asked my wife Amanda to write some lyrics for me, and she started by grabbing Entertainment Weekly and saying "pick a number." So I did, and she opened up to that page number, where someone from the latest Scream movie was being interviewed. The sentence she read aloud was something along the lines of "We were trying to shoot Ghost-face and there was literally a blizzard behind him." We both really liked the idea of ghosts in a blizzard, where they would be more or less invisible.

That idea plus a few drops of our history mixed with a lot of poetic license ended up becoming this love song.

(lyrics by Amanda Hirsch with some tweaks by me)

They say I'm a fool
With my heart open wide
Wanting this world
Nothing to hide

We met in the rain
Drops coming down
But we didn't care
There was no one around

'Cause we're ghosts in the the blizzard
Ghosts in the blizzard
Oh yeah

They said it won't last
They said we don't know
As if we can't tell
Rain from the snow

They tried so hard
To steer you and me
But we vanished away
And they couldn't see

'Cause we're ghosts in the blizzard
Ghosts in the blizzard
Oh yeah

It's a turbulent world
And it's a turbulent time
But I'm so glad, girl
I'm so glad that you're mine

& We're ghosts in the blizzard
Ghosts in the blizzard
Oh yeah


A Song For (And By) My Dog

Cosmo is awesome
My wife made a request recently: she wanted me to write a song about our dog Cosmo.  This isn't the first time he's inspired one of our creative endeavors, but it is the first time he helped me get closer to completing FAWM (other than providing moral support, of course).  It's a pretty unflinching look at the rough life of a tough dog living in the big city.

I ended up writing what I believe is my third song (there might be more, I'm not sure) written in the form of "a day in the life of [X]."  I found this one incredibly easy to write (I had to cut out several verses, that's how much I have to say about my dog), and just as difficult to play and record.  My piano, guitar, and bass skills are not what they once were (well, my guitar and bass skills were never really all that great), and so I spent a very long time plunking out some parts measure by measure, then editing, time-warping, etc. to make everything line up right.

But I'm really happy with the end result, and I hope you enjoy it too!

2 distorted guitar tracks, 1 clean one to help even out the sound.  2 piano parts, basically splitting the left and right hand parts into their own tracks.  1 bass line, and 1 line of eZ Drummer (I think I used every fill in the Pop/Rock series on this one).  1 main vocal track, 1 harmony track, and 1 extra harmony track during the bridge.

The chorus is pretty obviously stolen from "Black Gold" by Soul Asylum.  The verses are familiar too, but I'm not sure if I stole them and can't remember the source, or if they just have that sound.

i wake up, it's a sunny day and i jump up on the bed
i start to drop all kinds of hints that it's time for me to get fed
sometimes i give them that "special look" and sometimes i give them the howl
cuz' every dog knows when it's time to eat that it's time to eat RIGHT NOW.

breakfast has happened so i sneak a quick nap in, during the pre-walk wait
i spend some time sitting up on my couch where the view is pretty great
i look out the window and i wonder if they know that i really have to pee
so i break out the howl and i put on my scowl and say "pay attention to me!"

'cuz it's a dog day in a dog's life
and everything's all right
here's how i'm living and i don't need forgiving
'cuz i only bark i don't bite

out on the street, so many people to meet, out in the neighborhood
i make my cute face and I lean up close, so that they can pet me good
when it's time to drop a bomb i know that mom or dad will pick it up
'cuz they do the dirty work when i'm outside, that's the beauty of being a pup

back to the couch, now it's time to relax, while my humans do their work
sometimes i nap sometimes i just rest my eyes, stretching out is just one of the perks
of being a dog, i'm like a bump on a log, unless the goddamn doorbell rings
and then i lose my ever-lovin' mind, god i really hate that thing


things aren't always peachy keen
sometimes i have to go to the vet
i bark a lot, yeah i make a scene
if i could i'd break out in a sweat
but then when it's over, they give me a treat
i guess it really ain't so bad
but of course i can't let them know
so don't go telling my mom and dad!

when it's time for bed i lay down my head up where my humans sleep
i let them pet me and i give them a snuggle, it's really kinda sweet
then it's off to slumberland where i chase rabbits all through the night
but it's only a dream, i'm just blowing off steam, i'd  rather love than fight



Twitter Told Me To

A couple nights ago, I was sitting at my computer, staring at the blank canvas of my audio recording software, when I realized that I had no idea what song to write.  FAWM is in full effect, and there just isn't enough time in February for me to waste a night on my own with no committments - I had to start something.  A few songs I'd been tinkering with were eluding me, refusing to give themselves up no matter how I coaxed.  In short, I was boned.

And then a wonderful thing happened:  I checked Twitter, and noticed that the FAWM Twitter account had posted a prompt.  I had used one of their prompts previously when I wrote a (semi-)classical song, but that time it had just been for a lark, not because I had writer's block.  This time it was a life-saver.

I haven't worked much with writing prompts, though I know some writer find them an incredibly valuable tool.  My wife Amanda wrote some great blog posts during December based on the Reverb 10 series of daily writing prompts.  I had never really thought of prompts as something I could use, until this particular prompt sent me on a 2-and-a-half day songwriting journey.

The prompt directed anyone reading to write an "electronica/dance song."  While I love using robot noises and other electronica effects in some of my songs, I've never tried to write a straight-up electronica piece before.  Turns out they're much harder work than I thought (mostly on the production side).  Speaking of production, I'm still doing my mixing on either headphones or computer speakers, which is a mortal sin to people who take these things seriously.  So if any of my readers wants to buy me a nice set of monitors, I would be forever grateful.

And now, please get ready to dance to the trance as I present "Dark Room."


Sitting On The Beach

FAWM track #3 is done!  This is my homage to all the hat-wearing guitar players out there who spend their days looking good in their hats and playing their guitars on the beach.  Like this guy:

Sitting on a beach, wearing a hat, playing a guitar.

It's my personal shout-out to the troubadors so perfectly mocked in one of SNL's great recent sketches, "The Mellow Show."  I hate those guys, but without them I wouldn't have had my third FAWM track, "Sitting On The Beach."

I also hate mixing songs.  I like writing songs, I like performing songs, I don't even mind recording songs...but mixing remains in large part a hugy mystery to me, and I often end up with things are too loud, too quiet, too "it just doesn't sound right," etc.  There are tons of resources out there for people like me to learn and get themselves up to speed, but I am a lazy man, and I would prefer to just skip ahead to the part where I know all this stuff.  So if you're reading this and have the ability to do so, please invent that thing from the Matrix that allows Keanu to learn kung fu in a 20 second brain upload.  Thank you.

This song features the exact same chords as my much more meaningful song "Home Tonight."  I didn't intend to write two songs with the exact same chord structure, I guess I'm just not always as creative as I'd like to be.  I'm also not the pianist I once use, so feel free to mentally substitute a better piano solo after the bridge.

I woke up this morning, knew what I would do
It's the same thing every day
Packed up my six-string and headed for the beach
It's not that far away

I made sure that I had my hat
To keep the sun off of my face
'Cuz there's a place for everything, including this hat
And everything's in its place

Now i'm sitting on the beach, wearing my hat
And strummin' on my guitar 

The sun is shining, the people look good
Feel like I'm livin' in a dream
My hair is perfect and my body is tan
Like I stepped out of a magazine

I sometimes wonder if this is all
That life has in store for little old me
But then I remember that I'm wearing my hat
And everything's as it should be


Sometimes overhead, a cloud passes by   
And a perfect little teardrop forms inside my perfect little eye
But then a breeze blows through and blows that cloud away
And then i'm happy, happy, more than I could say

The day is done, and I've had my fun
It's time to head back home
So I pack up my six-string and put on my shirt
My hat's still up on my dome

Well I don't button my shirt all the way to the top
'Cuz night time is party time it never stops
And I keep on my hat, 'cuz without it  you see
Well I just wouldn't be me no I wouldn't be me



FAWM: A New Song, And An Update

I wrapped up 2 songs this rainy afternoon, one brand new creation, and one update.

The new one was inspired by the FAWM twitter account, who declared a few days ago to be "classical music day."  As it happened, I was playing around that day with a new synthesizer package, and I happened to find a nice strings/nylon guitar voicing that I really liked.  So I plunked out a very simple tune, intending to make something classical out of it....and then the robots arrived.  I went a little crazy with the noise on this one, but eventually it pulls back from the brink...somewhat.

"Exploration of a Theme in C"

The second one was a reworking of my first song, "Home Tonight." My friend and longtime musical collaborator John contributed mandolin to this track, and I tweaked the mix a bit and added some vocal harmonies here and there. It's still a bit quiter than I'd like overall, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Interesting to compare it to the previous, stripped-down version. At least I think it's interesting.

"Home Tonight" (featuring John Argentiero on mandolin)


FAWM 2011 Is Here!

FAWM is back!  The annual songwriting challenge has returned, and I am excited to dive in.  I had a blast participating last year, and I can't wait to hear what everyone (including me) comes up with this time around.  My first track is done (thought I cheated a bit and wrote part of it before February), and I thought I'd share it with all of you.  It's called "Home Tonight."

The lyrics started coming to me a few weeks ago while I was riding my bike through Prospect Park.  The sun was setting, and the sight of the snowy trees in the fading light got me thinking...and those thoughts turned into this song.  I guess you could call it a protest song, which would be a first for me - though not really surprising, as I love protesting things.

This one's definitely on the more emotional singer-songwriter side of things, so expect the next 13 to be technopop songs sung from a robot's POV, now that I've gotten this one out of the way.

This is a rough mix without too much EQ or processing.  I'll probably tweak it a bit later on, and I've also asked my insanely talented friend John to contribute some mandolin to this, which I think will fit nicely.  So consider this a rough demo.  2 guitar tracks (played on my very old Epiphone C40), 1 vocal track, all recorded through my (also very old) Shure SM58.

Snow falls, silent, all around
Wish I could lay my body down
But I've got miles to go before I'm by your side   
I wish I was coming home tonight       

You'll be there, waiting by the fire
I pick you up, and hold my heart's desire
Dawn breaks, and then at last, we finally close our eyes
I wish I was coming home tonight

We'll build that house down by the sea
Lay down my guns, such bitter company
We'll live forevermore, where there is no need to fight
I wish I was coming home tonight

Don't think I've left you all behind           
You're here with me, etched inside my mind        
And though I ride alone in a world that's painted white   
I know you ride with me tonight           

Snow falls, crimson as I pass
It's growing cold, the light is fading fast
Let them know, when they grow, that I stood my turn to fight
And I won't be coming home tonight
I wish I was coming home tonight