Monday, August 6, 2012


My new record, Desolation, will be released tomorrow and I figure I should tell you a few things about it:

After producing Happiness myself with a cohort of good friends, I was eager to dive into another album and put everything that I’d just learned to use.  The batch of songs I had ready were all a little darker, a little more strange than usual and I felt like it would be a satisfying challenge to attempt the project by myself, to play all the instruments, record it, mix it, lock myself away with it, and see what would happen.

This approach worked really well for me.  Because my skills at certain things (mixing, for instance) are brand new, it’s definitely quite imperfect. There are times when it feels really raw, distorted or unbalanced.  This was a major battle between my authentic self and the perfectionist in me (that I’ve been slowly trying to kill), and I think that the imperfection of these tracks totally serves the spirit of the songs, probably my most vulnerable batch yet.  They gasp. They wriggle and moan. They explode.

I wanted it to be accurate to the shape and structure of certain feelings that have been mentioned in my lyrics that I’m not sure I’ve been able to touch with the production of my last two records.  I especially wanted to do my best to paint the sensations of anxiety/panic, grief, anger, worthlessness, nostalgia, regret (and hint at a little hope and peace as well). I think I did pretty well with that.  I mean, I feel like this album really is terrified of itself, really hates itself, feels sorry for itself, longs with its whole being for something it doesn’t understand...

- - -

So, why so much focus on these places inside of me that seethe and swarm?

Because, though my music and art has allowed me to inch closer and closer in the last decade, I’ve still spent my whole life running away from them.  And every time I flee, they tighten their grip and gain more power.  By honoring their existence, by meeting them face to face and allowing them to be seen, heard, and understood, I find that they do eventually stop screaming and lay down to rest for a while.  The process of making this album has helped me to ease in beside them (with a little affection even), to fall asleep with these heaps of fangs and claws slumbering at the foot of my bed.

I recorded it throughout winter and spring of 2012 in my bedroom on the east side of LA.  I also spent a couple rainy weeks with it in Oakland, in the house I grew up in, just myself and a german shepherd.  I allowed these hard sensations to rise as recording sessions spilled from day into night and back into day.  I felt the solitude, the regret, the injustice and shame and I let it all stay. I let it pull me down over the canyon rim, down into the darkness, down into cold river that carved everything out in the first place.  And because I played every instrument on the album, the whole thing had to flow through me, through these difficult emotions, through my fingers and vocal chords, onto the guitar strings and piano keys, into the microphones...

- - -

The abstract painting I’ve been doing these days influenced the production as well. My process with abstract pieces is usually just an in-the-moment negotiation, a series of changes, then reactions to those changes, and so on...  I rarely plan anything out.  I instead feel my way though the piece, allowing it to evolve without any pressure, and when I get a sense that it is finally “working,” I put down the brush. I followed this approach as I layered instruments and vocal parts onto these tracks.  It was liberating, and a much more enjoyable process than sketching everything out and forcing it into shape.

Finally, it’s been resonating with me recently how our emotions are, in certain ways, much more real than our thoughts. Though our plans, strategies, daydreams, worries, etc, are fundamentally necessary and allow us to survive and evolve, to navigate our lives, to write books, build cities and feed billions, they still are only fantasies, ethereal mists filling the dark space of our unknown futures until the moment of truth crashes in with structure and closure. So often we follow our thoughts as if they are real experiences, so often I’m confused and stressed to exhaustion as I chase these illusions. We carry the burden of our thoughts as a deer carries his antlers - a weight on our heads, a strain on our necks.  The flow of our feelings, though, is no fantasy, no projection to another world and time.  Our feelings are there, real and tangible in each moment, constantly informing us, advising us, rising and passing through our here and now.  They are the mouthpiece of the unconscious.  They are the voice of nature herself.

In this way, I think that my focus on feel has made this one of the more genuine pieces of art that I’ve produced.  During those long days of recording, I imagined you listening to it alone as well.  I pictured you on a dark highway late at night with the windows down to a vast warm plain, or with flakes of snow closing in on you forever and ever. 

I do hope you find a good piece of solitude to hear it in.  And I hope, of course, that you find it to be of some good use.

All my love,