Pre-recording Recording

monster box

Monster Box photo by Marion Crombie

I wake up thinking about you, go to bed doing the same.

The monsters in my nightmares spend the whole night

whispering your name.

Long ago when I played seriously competitive playground basketball with big athletic men, one of the guys I played with was a very tall muscular man known as Tiny.

Every time I arrived at the playground and Tiny was there, he would greet me with, “Yo Todds. Where you at, my main?” Then he would lock eyes with me until I gave him a meaningful answer. “Doing okay,” or “Hanging in there,” would not suffice for Tiny. He really wanted to know what I was thinking and how I was feeling. After I gave him my answer, I would ask where he was at because I knew he was keen to tell me. Thus when Tiny and I played together, on the same team or opposing each other, we had a sense of where we both were at.

Where I’m at right now is in what I call an interim phase. How about you?

I have completed my new novel and I’m waiting for my designer graphics wizard Garth to send me the first iteration of the book formatted for printing. I will then read the book one more time as I proof the pages, we will design the cover together, and ere long the finished files will be sent to photocopy maestro Ian at ZO, the finest and only copy shop in Mendocino, and some days or weeks hence I’ll have copies of The Magic Pen to share with my small band of devoted readers.

I have written eight novels, a novella, two plays, two screenplays, and three hundred essays in the last six years, a prolific time for me, and I look forward to seeing what the astral conveyor belt delivers next.

By the way, if by some fluke you haven’t yet read my most recent novel The Recipes of Alexander Skåll, copies are still available, you can read the first two chapters on my web site to whet your appetite, and here are a few of the responses I’ve gotten to The Recipes of Alexander Skåll.

“Yet another masterpiece Mr. Walton! I am not sure which I hunger for most, the Fish Taco Recipe or your amazingly, colorful and complex characters! I love them all—getting ready to read the book again (I am still hungry )…cannot get enough! Bravo!” Wendy Mull

“What a marvelous story! I’m always sorry to say good-bye to your characters.” Richard Marks

“I just finished reading The Recipes of Alexander Skåll and declare the book a masterpiece. I enjoyed the story from beginning to end and found it extremely moving…had tears in my eyes many times.” David Jouris

Meanwhile I am preparing to go into the recording studio to record thirteen songs, eleven for guitar and voice, two for piano and voice, this upcoming recording a rough draft, so to speak, with which Marcia and I and a few collaborators will be able to hear and practice additional music parts and vocal harmonies for what will eventually be the final recording.

To prepare for this pre-recording recording, I practice the songs every day, honing my playing chops as well as my vocalizing chops. I have lost a few notes at the high end of my singing range since the halcyon days of a sweet falsetto, which is no doubt why I hear female vocalists harmonizing and soloing and supplying higher notes and female tonalities on many of these songs.

In order not to drive Marcia bonkers with repeated performances of these songs, I either wait until she goes off into the world before I practice, or I go the end of the house furthest from Marcia’s office/studio and sequester myself in the resonant bathroom, which also affords me a view of a guy in the mirror playing guitar and making funny faces as he tries to hit those aforementioned high notes. Marcia says she can barely hear me back there, which empowers me to cut loose.

I also sometimes practice outside for an audience of redwoods, hummingbirds, ravens, Japanese maples, chipmunks, chard, collard greens, and sky.

I am using two guitars for the album, a small guitar with a timbre I love for the folk-song-like songs of the collection, and a full-sized guitar with wonderful overtones and neato harmonics for the jazzier tunes. I enjoy switching from one guitar to the other, their unique voices inspiring and refreshing. This is the first time in my life I’ve had two guitars. Who knew?

A few of the songs I’m going to record are ones I’ve recorded before, but I have new ideas about how I want to perform and arrange them. Several of the songs are older songs I’ve never recorded, and I like these songs so well I wonder why I didn’t record them in the days when I was doing lots of recording. And a few of the songs are newly written.

As I practice these songs, old and new, I see more and more ways they connect with each other, and I’m beginning to think of the order they will appear on the album. This is an old-fashioned outdated concept left over from the days of analog recordings and vinyl record albums, from a time when songs were not also little movies with the song as soundtrack. In those long ago days, the order of the songs on an album was an important part of the listening experience.

I do have some groovy ideas for little movies to go with my songs, but the creation of even one of those little movies may very well be beyond me.

Wasn’t gonna go to Mary’s party,

Wasn’t gonna go, I was feeling too low.

Called her up to say I wasn’t coming,

That’s when you answered the telephone.

Something in your voice caught my attention,

Something in your voice rang like a bell.

Next thing I knew I was on my way over,

Riding that bike like a bat outta hell.

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