Inspiration and composition:
Television: The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was great after-school viewing. It had lots of Bill Cosby voices, cool theme music, decent moral lessons, and at the end they got together and jammed all in a junkyard band! They even said “damn” and “bastard” once during the scared straight episode. One character spoke in a garbled Ubbi Dubbi dialect and his name was “Mushmouth”. Later in life, at my worst moments when I tried to play fast passages on the guitar it sounded like Mushmouth talking, so I titled this song at a reminder to myself to kubeep prubactubicubing dubammubit [keep practicing, dammit].
Need I mention the influence of The Godfather of Soul, The Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk,The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, The Godfather of Funk, Mr Please Please Please… Jammmmmmmes Browwwwwn!? I play along with so much James Brown just to try to absorb a few little droplets of his sweaty soul spirit. The groove of “Gonna Have A Funky Good Time” is the backbone of this tune.
Meanwhile, over in composition land: Like in many other songs I’ve written, “Mushmouth” came very directly from material I was practicing at the time. There were four concepts I was working on. In the A sections, the melody is the end result of an experiment with a pentatonic scale with the intervals 1 b3 4 b5 b7. At first I was practicing a straightforward 4 note sequence, which really started to sound propulsive when I played the 4 note sequence in triplets. (I used the same concept of 4 note sequencing in triplets also in “Everyone I Know”.) This phrase sounded great as a “stop” with an added finishing phrase played into the C7 groove.
Where to go next, but down to the bVI area? The second idea I was fooling with was mixing a pentatonic scale with random open strings, something my teacher Rick Peckham once mentioned to me. This morphed into the B section phrase which takes notes from G triad available as open strings and notes from the Bb minor pentatonic… very fun to play on guitar! A decoy return to the A section follows, ending with yet another concept expressed in the song’s sixteenth note ending. This is (yet again) another 4 note pentatonic phrase. The top of the line is doubled in the bass and just falls down in a blues cliche (5, b5, 4, b3), but the rest of the sequence slides into other pentatonic scales which share those pitches… C- to B- to D- to Eb- would be one way of looking at it. The phrase became the punctuation mark used to end our solos, and in the middle of the song a marker for Robby and Marlon to change grooves if they wished.
For the studio recording I created “Intrusive Solo Section”, so called because I was concerned it might sound force-fit onto the rest of the song. I am a huge fan of George Van Eps and his work with triads on guitar (too scared to move to Volumes 2 and 3 yet). Triads in three keys with a stepwise melody was the fourth concept I was practicing. With a nod to the kicks on “Payback”, I wrote triads descending in C-, left 4 bars for drums, then ascending in C-, then another 4 bar break. I expanded this concept by adding bars and keys, so the second phrase descends and ascends from C- to Ab-, and the third phrase from C- to Ab- to E-. Also fun on guitar!
There’s so much to love about this track! Six players, six solos, all in under six minutes, and all in such a fashion that still lets the song itself shine. For me it’s like watching a crack commando team at work… multiple talents all working on one mission.
Opening up, the warm loving tenor tone of Greg Sinibaldi interweaves thru the melody statement. At one point I decided to name the record “More Greg” cause that’s what I kept saying during mixing. The band set the stage for my guitar solo. Not much hocus-pocus here, and the solo I take is in a way part of what I began years ago on “Hat Trick”… pentatonics, open strings, and keeping my ears on the groove. After I play the tag melody ending, Marlon and Robby move out of triplet feel and Jacob plays an awesome solo while I, to foreshadow, glide thru the chords of the “Intrusive Solo Section”. The trumpet he plays always inspires me to go new places and make new sounds, and yet he can play his ass off like Woody Shaw when he wants. In the studio we added Robby’s bass break into the arrangement and it became another one of my top moments on the record… so g.d. funky into the downbeat. Marlon dances effortlessly across the solo section and sets us back up for the reprise. Like a laser beam Peter get his piece in at the end and tears apart the holes in the melody out. What does a Canadian Belgium know about playing over jam band style C7(9)? A lot, apparently!
Post tracking we had some fun. The warmth and slight distortion you hear on the drums and horns comes from re-amping them thru my guitar amps (at least until we blew two amps up, whoops). The “Intrusive Solo Section” kicks were juiced up by aiming them at a piano and recording the sympathetic string vibrations. The beginning and ending noises are cool dirty delay artifacts that I can listen to forever and enjoy…. just a few seconds of it for you here.