One of my favourite things to do once I've "finished" a song (no song is ever finished) is to look back at how it was written, what inspired it, and got it to finished, when so many don't. It's not a wanky "aren't I great" exercise but genuine interest in how a song got started, progressed, and ended up. Most ideas (99.9%) never get anywhere. That's not important. What's important is having them in the first place - not shutting down our creative side, but listening to it, encouraging it, even in the face of hopeless odds. That's what I think, anyway. I was inspired by the book Psycho Cybernetics and think there's a lot to being receptive to our creative side. Ideas aren't "made", they're received. As Chuck Bukowski admonished: 'Don't try'. Wait. And note down. You have to take your creativity seriously for it to produce anything. These are my notes for the songs Fascistate, Military Disease, and House Is On Fire.
This track is mostly comprised of what I call 'snippets' - snatches of melody and lyrics that I always record. They're short: 10-15 seconds at most. I work off those and somehow, sometimes, a song comes out. For these three songs, there were many. many more that didn't make it. Who knows what made these ones special, but I'm glad they did make it.
The first snippets are for Fascistate. There are 8! Originally it was 'control and power'. It's not until the third snippet that the title suggested itself - Fascistate, but the melody is still not formed. By the fourth snippet (0:18) I started to get an idea of the melody - chanty, but still not the final. Snippets 5-7 were dead ends. I don't remember them but it seems I had worked out the title and was now looking for a melody. It's not until snippet 8 (0:54) that a melody emerged. And that became the final.
Military Disease starts at 1:16. The first snippet has 'military' but not disease. That came later. Snippet 2 at 1:25 gets the verse melody.The next snippet went nowhere, till I'm back in the groove with 4. Snippet 5 at 1:54 gets the pre-chorus. The rest was worked out once I had composed the track. It's often the way it goes: a snippet gets something going. After that it's repetitive construction, going over and over the song until an idea stands out. Usually I don't record those snippets - ideas either live or die, and eventually a melody and title become clear.
House Is On Fire starts at 2:24. It's pretty strong - got the title already, and the general beat of the title, if not the final melody. In snippet 2 at 2:32 I'm singing over the track I'm constructing.You can hear the bleed from the headphones. I must've heard something I liked, although it didn't make the cut. By snippet 3 at 2:40 the chorus becomes clear. Again I'm going over the track I'm building. This is part music, part lyrics. I'm looking for a sound I like, and then building a lyric over it. In snippet 4 at 2:49 I got a piece that eventually became the bridge, although it sounds like it was composed as part of the chorus. The last snippet at 2:55 didn't end up anywhere but reinforced the 'put the fire out' line. Then the final mix, with sound FX etc.
Here are the full finished songs:
- Fascistate: https://simuso.com/track/2263222/fascistate
- Military Disease: https://simuso.com/track/2263285/military-disease
- House Is On Fire: https://simuso.com/track/2263282/house-is-on-fire
Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but writing is an unpredictable, non-linear activity. A day of "work" can produce nothing. A minute can write the structure of a whole song. Thing is to be ready for that minute - to get the idea down, catch it as it floats past. We're not really writing, just catching ideas. Once the concept is settled, then there's a bunch of new work to do to explain, create, and engage. I don't know how anyone does it, let alone me!