Inspiration and Composition:
Spy movie music: that was the trajectory of this composition. This is racing your european sports car thru the winding hills of California. Looking out, the whole landscape hurls by you in a 70’s technicolor filter. But, oops, the song has this off kilter hitch. It’s not too surprising something would be crooked, judging from the rest of my songs. This one had just enough circus like room-of-mirrors twist to it, so I titled it “Funhouse”.
Yet again, this song began with chords chords chords. Three of them actually, specifically the ones that make up the A section. Each capitalized on some tasty open string close interval sparkle , and in the middle of all that there was a nice inner voice moving from C down to Bb and then up to B. Now that’s something I can wrap a line around, I thought. The crazy bass line came next, just the first 5/4 bar. The line started by outlining the E7 until after beat two, which was interesting. I recall playing the bass line twice and then transforming it to fit the second chord, and then working backwards to connect the two sections. The connection flowed in 4/4, so the whole 5/4 5/5 4/4 format became established. With the A sections done, some searching lead me to Cmaj7 followed by a cool sounding G- which was satisfying because I had been exploring V- instead of V7 lately. This B section lived in the same mixed meter as the A sections for awhile. We actually performed it as AABA several times, but I stepped away from that form… it didn’t have enough contrast.
Chords, bass line, the melody came next: I used the rhythms of the bass line and this idea of sliding into a half-step on the guitar to start the melody. The challenge was in writing something that worked along with the bass line without shadowing it completely. Since the B section was less dense it was easier to write over, plus I had been improvising over Imaj to Vmin independently of this song for a while.
The last part I wrote was the harmony line. For the recording, I wanted to have a bass line, and a possible harmony line or counter line for every song. I selected only the important rhythmic strikes of the bass line wrote them out, and then kind of filled in the blank with notes that worked with all the other material. It all worked, but for better or worse was quite dense. How to make this work? Layering in was my plan in the end… improvise into layer after layer, and build into the bridge which is played only once.
Short and full of action… that was intent here. I had three horns and three lines, so we stacked them in layer by layer. Before hitting each of their lines, the horn players solo over what was happening. As long as it was the right length, the arrangement worked well. It was always fun watching Greg play the bass line on the bari for that long without fainting. Once we had the take, we dubbed in increasingly bombastic drums at the beginning and double all the melodies on guitar. Post production it was all about getting everyone to be heard in this soup of lines. At a later point I felt it needed a horn soli to thin things out for a moment and set the melodies apart. It worked and it was so cool to hear the horns carry the song. Who knows, maybe I should’ve just let them play the whole record on their own…?