So here we finally are, onto the second half of the project I posted a couple weeks ago. Well, no, this and the other one are in fact discrete projects. But, I’m lumping them together because I switched back and forth between working on one and working on the other over the same two or three month period.
Like the last one, Don’t Mind a Thing is actually a very old song, as far as my musical endeavors are concerned. But, also like the last one, this comes from a time easily characterized in my adventure. Where the last one had to do with my self-image, this one has to do with my artistic values. They were more limited and restrictive than I realized at the time. So, something I have found interesting as I’ve progressed through this, is how playing around with a completely different medium has spread the boundaries of what see as ‘important’ in an artistic process. Even to some degree, what makes art ‘real’.
See, this song is made up of about 90% my own samples—the extra 10% (primarily the bass synth) is a new addition. At the time this was written, I was coming off of making a short EP. I really liked the songs on that EP. When I was writing them, I didn’t know where they were going, but it was natural and exploratory. And when I finally forced myself to say they were ‘done’, I actually really enjoyed their sound and the melodies.
Even though the songs, in essence, were just for me, there was something wrong with them. Not to my ears, but in the hypothetical eyes of other people who might happen to hear them. Or, at least I projected. The problem was, these samples weren’t ‘mine’. I didn’t record them. I couldn’t tell you what the real thing might’ve sounded like. Some of the noisemakers I used were from instruments and devices I’d never even seen in real life. On some deep, dark level, the samples were ‘real’, but what I made with them was not. I don’t mean to say I was thinking this on a conscious level. I wasn’t.
At the time I cooked up this track, I was “challenging” myself. But, no I wasn’t. I was grasping at an opportunity to call something I made “real”. Laugh at that all you want, I’m laughing along with you. The fact of the matter is, art doesn’t have to be ‘good’. It doesn’t have to appeal to anyone. And none of that makes it fake. It just makes it part of the process.
So, after originally recording this song, I had the petrifying chance to perform my EP and a couple other songs live at a house-show audience of 50 or 60 people, many of whom felt the need for a cigarette after my first song. I didn’t blame them. I took that chance, and Don’t Mind a Thing was the last song on my setlist. I was proud of myself for having something to show that was 100% of my own creation, from samples to arrangement. When I performed it, it didn’t sound as good as the others. And, I mean literally, the sound just wasn’t as good; pitchy, loud and uncomfortably ‘clean’ sounding. It was also the only song on my set list I technically messed up. Though I’d intended to publish the song after the show, I didn’t. The experience had left a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t meet my ‘standards’. Yeah, right.
My decision not to publish is what betrayed my motives. I thought I had been “challenging” myself, but by breaking my own rule, and failing to say this thing was ‘done’, I eventually saw that I was just feeling insecure about the other things I’d already recorded. Somewhere inside, I wanted to be able to say, “oh yeah, I’m using these samples, but sometimes I make my own”. You know, like a ‘real artist’ would.
I’m not sure any artist ever really stops questioning themselves.
So, when I brought this track back to the surface, and started reading through my journal entries from that time, I could see more clearly what had happened, and I decided it was high time this track was called ‘done’.
I added some instrumentation I had resisted in the original recording. I added a real kick drum sound. I chopped off some redundancy, and completely reworked the end of the song. I think the lyrics are about racism—or, maybe about misunderstanding racism. Whatever. Probably don’t get hung up on them.
So, now, here it is for your listening pleasure, or displeasure. Either way, it’s your life, waste it however you want.