DK goes song-by song thru Madness and Morals: Disco Superman (Michel Foucault)

Now this is a weird song.  I remember next to nothing about writing it, although it is one of the most recent songs on Madness and Morals.  And yet the refrain

Go head on

and even the melody of the refrain have been on my mind since I was a teenager.  (I’m 39 now, approximately.  Har.)  Where to begin?  I guess I should begin with the question of my attitude toward Michel Foucault, but a more interesting question is that of how (and whether) an author’s attitudes—or any of his conscious thoughts—manifest themselves in the work of art.  Obviously, there is no general answer to the question: various artists impose themselves variously in their artworks.  Equally obviously, the negatively connotative word “impose” tips the hand of my own taste.  In an earlier post I went on quite Continue reading

DK goes song-by-song thru Madness and Morals: Half in Two

One of the cool, unusual things about Louder Than Dirt is that everybody sings.  I want to start today’s post with a discussion of what a great singer Adam, who sings “Half in Two,” is.  Adam is half of the Lawsky brothers—all the great southern bands have brothers in them—and he’s the youngest member of Louder Than Dirt.  He is what in baseball you would call a student of the game.  He grew up listening to the popular bands of the grunge and post-grunge eras (he still loves the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and the cool, almost affectless tone can be heard in Adam’s singing.  He doesn’t use a big vibrato and he doesn’t bend a lot of notes.  He doesn’t sing with gush.  But he sings with great sincerity (“Integrity”: one of LTD’s cardinal virtues); he is himself.  He himself has a lot of feeling, a lot of soul, but he doesn’t use vocal gimmicks to portray his soulful feelings.  One could Continue reading

DK goes song-by-song thru Madness and Morals: “He Ain’t Here”

Since we started work on our last CD, Oily Little Rainbows, and really since Louder Than Dirt got together, I have been in a creative frenzy.  Two factors account for this circumstance, I think: first and most important is the stimulation and support I get from Adam, Joseph and Julian; second, I made a conscious decision to give my imagination free rein.  That is, I tried not to censor my creativity with considerations about, primarily, public appeal.  My formulation has been, “to write the songs my imagination gives me.”  So, for example, “For Certain” is the only pop song I’ve ever heard that mentions the Crimean War—the joke being that one doesn’t know something about it, namely, its cause.  Similarly, “Bacteria” mentions mitochondria, spirochetes and “saprophytic workers.”  So I have a big vocabulary.  So kill me.  “He Ain’t Here” originates in a Biblical reference, although I am an egregious unbeliever. Continue reading

A slight variation from alphabetical order: song-by song thru Madness and Morals: For Certain

Yeah, this is a weird song.  “For Certain” gives me a good chance to talk about theme since I think this song has a theme, but I don’t really think about theme.  I remember the composition of it quite well.  I guess I have to revise my earlier statement that I usually write the chorus first because here is another example of starting with the verse.  Many times, I won’t say most of the time because it’ll prove false, many times I write in my head often while taking a walk or driving.  But this time I wrote pretty much the whole song with a Continue reading

Interlude: What’s Going On: DK is talking about the songs on Madness and Morals

Yeah.  Louder Than Dirt is a great rock band, if I must say so myself.  “Myself” am DK, who plays guitar for LTD and who wrote the songs on the soon-to-be released CD Madness and Morals.  This is our second CD; the first was last year’s Oily Little Rainbows, like Madness and Morals on the Bottom Floor label and produced by Lord Erudite.  Madness and Morals is scheduled for release in mid-December, so watch Twitter, Facebook, louderthandirt.com and these pages for more info.  Next up: “Disco Superman (Michel Foucault).”  Louder Than Dirt: Integrity, Creativity, Loudness.

DK goes song-by-song thru Madness and Morals: Criminal Character

This is one of those songs that I wrote fairly quickly, but I wrote about twice as many verses as we ended up using. Beginning writers in any genre: It’s a lot easier to cut than to add. “Criminal Character” has been a joy from its inception. As I recall the genesis of its composition, I am struck by how often a song grows from the mating of two unrelated concepts, often, as in this case, a musical idea and a verbal idea. I have to speak of them in sequence, but I honestly don’t remember which came first. The musical idea springs (or sprang) from a song, “John the Revelator” by Son House, that the Lawsky Brothers and I have done since nearly the beginning. (A song that, by the way, Adam sings the hell out of.) JtR is a twelve-bar blues, but it has no chord changes. You can feel where the IV and especially the V would come, but it just drones in its home key, which for us has always been the guitar key of E. I love drone and work it in whenever I can, but a listen to Continue reading

DK goes song-by-song thru Madness and Morals: Cigarette

Kind of hard to talk about instrumentals, I guess, but I will try. I know, I know, there is singing at the end of “Cigarette,” but, let’s face it, it’s an instrumental. The singing is a big choral group, an orchestral and hence instrumental sound. “Cigarette” is a two minute oratorio. Early on in the song’s genesis I came up with the chord progression, which is a modification of the old I-VI-II-V, repeating the first half, I-VI, before repeating the second half, II-V. I pretty much simultaneously came up with the melody, which I somewhat later harmonized. It was a good while, several months, before I devised the chorus. Continue reading

DK goes song-by-song thru Madness and Morals: Beloved Tease

If “Bacteria” reaches the ideal state in which words and music came together seamlessly, “Beloved Tease” followed a far different progress to become a really good song. I think “Beloved Tease” is a great song despite—or perhaps because of—its unusual genesis. I recorded a demo as I do with pretty much all my songs, which in this case consisted of the opening riff and the verse. I presented it to the band as an instrumental. All my bandmates expressed approval [Digression: my bandmates are extremely nice people, intelligent, considerate—top notch guys. I’m always very enthusiastic when I write a song; I know they can’t all be winners, but my bandmates invariably give each new song a chance and give me boundless encouragement.] for the song, but Joseph suggested that I add lyrics to it. Now, adding lyrics is not my preferred approach. I like it best when, as with “Bacteria” words and music come together. I think you can sometimes tell which comes first or which carries greater weight in less well-composed songs. But here I faced an interesting challenge since the unusual rhythm of the verse, arising without words, differed from my usual lyrical rhythms, which tend in the direction of iambickish pentametroid. Continue reading

DK Goes Song-by-Song thru Madness and Morals: Bacteria

DK of Louder Than Dirt here. I play the guitar and sing. I wrote the songs on Madness and Morals, and I assisted Lord Erudite in the production of that album. The collection is essentially finished and will be released, to great fanfare, in December. We’ll post some samples before that time. I know that nobody has heard the songs yet. Nevertheless, I propose for the next 15 postings a song-by-song commentary. The postings will be completely mystifying, but they will provide, I hope, some insight into the process of writing songs and working them up with the band. You will see that, although the style is that of loud, obnoxious rock music, considerable care goes into the making of a record like Madness and Morals.
“Bacteria” is one of my favorite songs. It grew very, very slowly—over several years—and its personal significance for me revealed itself only gradually. As with most of my songs, I well recall the germ of the idea for “Bacteria.” I remember driving home from work (day gig, you know) without musical contamination. When I’m in songwriting mode I drive in silence except for road noise; when I’m in “post-production” mode I listen to mixes while I drive. Continue reading

Louder Than Dirt: Howdy Folks!

Louder Than Dirt is a really good rock band based out of Atlanta. We’ve been together for a good while, and we are preparing to release our second CD of original material, to be entitled Madness and Morals, on Bottom Floor Records. Here’s our official bio:

Louder Than Dirt:

The Authorized Biography

When

DK started playing seriously with the Lawsky brothers in the spring of 2005, both Adam and Joseph played drums, and the two-drummers attack was way cool. But Adam was too good a keyboard player—a classically trained pianist who could really play the blues—to stay behind a drum kit. And Joseph could more than hold his own as the rhythm master: a power drummer with unusual taste and dynamic control. With the addition of Julian Phillips in 2010, Louder Than Dirt was formed. Julian, an excellent guitar player and front man, has brought a new world of guitaristic flash with rock-solid bottom to the bass. The rhythm section provides both a strong foundation and sufficient space to support DK’s orchestral guitar stylings. DK’s songwriting encompasses the full range of popular music of the post-World War II era: blues, country, R&B, British Invasion, pysychedelia, punk, grunge, funk and beyond. Mostly just big, hard-driving rock. The quartet of lead singers and multi-instrumentalists creates an astonishing variety and sheer quantity of sound. This versatile group combines the profundity of poetry with the absolute joy of a kick-ass rock and roll show. Louder Than Dirt is a team that really knows how to have a good time. Creativity, Integrity, Loudness: better than silence, Louder Than Dirt.

This post is composed by DK, and I expect that I’ll do most of the writing. I propose to provide commentary for the songs on the new CD. The CD won’t go on sale until December, but the tunes should go online, at least in smallish samples, before then. So hopefully, the posts will become demystified soon enough.