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Song Stories:

The eight images below represent the eight tracks on Obscura - click on each to find out the story behind each...

Obscura Blue Searchlight The Hill & The Hole Missing Prototype
2AM Vision Within The Mirror Amelia The Neon Depths The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song)
Obscura

Obscura

About...
As a child I was always fascinated by sunsets, twilight, dusk (and still remain so to this day) - partially from its own beauty, but also in anticipation of the the darkness that immediately followed which was possibly my favorite time (hence - "Obscura", which is Latin for "darkness"). I would often gaze almost hypnotized from the upstairs window of my parent's bedroom, at the colorful view across the city rooftops as the sun began its dive, to ultimately vanish behind the pinpoint red lights of the radio towers on the horizon miles away. I shot countless photographs of the image, every time attempting to capture the "perfect" one; the album's front cover photo is one of these, taken in 1978.

Obscura is inspired by these images, as an attempt to create what might've been my personal "soundtrack" as I stood alone watching from a darkened room.

Instrumentation Notes...
Performed in two separate tracks (one looped, one not) on my Schecter Tempest Blackjack.

- Listen to a sample of Obscura
Blue Searchlight

Blue Searchlight

About...
Another early childhood recollection: "searchlight chasing", which consisted of my sister, myself, and sometimes my parents all piling into the car and driving throughout our surrounding neighborhoods in search of the source of searchlight beams flashing high over the rooftops. Back in that day they were very often used as methods to advertise local events such as new store openings, etc. Eventually we'd find it, and I was fascinated by these huge, powerfully bright machines that were usually found perched on the back of flatbed trucks, slowly turning as it blasted its cone of light up into the twilit sky.

Instrumentation Notes...
One of the early tracks recorded for the album, performed in a single long looping take on my Schecter Stilletto Studio 8 eight-string bass.

- Listen to a sample of Blue Searchlight
The Hill & The Hole

The Hill & The Hole

About...
I've always loved the vintage horror and fantasy stories of Fritz Leiber Jr, in particularly his collection titled "Night's Black Agents" which featured fascinating horror stories often based in urban settings. One story from it, however, - "The Hill and the hole" - had a much more rural setting and was about a surveyor who discovers what visually appears to be a raised hill, but measures instead to be a deep depression in the ground...and his horrific fate when he decides to shrug off local warnings and go closer...

The Hill & The Hole was inspired by not only this story but Leiber's wonderfully image-generating writing style in general, and also includes my first attempt at incorporating field recordings into one of my pieces. The track's abupt ending parallels the fate of the story's protagonist.

Instrumentation Notes...
Another early track recorded for the album, performed entirely on my 10-string Chapman Stick. The nature sounds also featured in this piece were recorded in my back yard.

- Listen to a sample of The Hill & The Hole
Missing Prototype

Missing Prototype

About...
Often music can inspire images not based on any actual memory of a real time, place or event - but instead trigger one based on a mental image inspired by the mood set up the music as you're playing it. In the case of Missing Prototype, it started out as a simple, gentle guitar pattern that at one point had a somewhat dissonant clash early onto the piece - with this dissonant fragment continued to loop and mutate over time in something more ominous and potentially sinister...

As I was playing, dark sci-fi-ish images ala' "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" or "Night Gallery" started occuring from that "clash" moment forward of some kind of intelligent biological experiment in a secluded laboratory that somehow went wrong - and then breaking free of its confines and escaping into the night, becoming more stronger as it went; an innocently created living, breathing Missing Prototype has breached the perimeter, destination and intentions unknown...

Instrumentation Notes...
Missing Prototype was actually the very first piece I started working on after the release of "Dream Tower Blueprints", and incorporated some of the looping techniques I used on that album. This time in particular, I was experimenting both with "false harmonics" played on my Fender Stratocaster, and my first attempt at using (poorly, in my humble opinion...) real, hand-played percussion (a tabla) in one of my ambient pieces. The Strat parts that I played continued to build up over time into a powerful, brooding wall of sound.

- Listen to a sample of Missing Prototype
2AM Vision Within The Mirror

2AM Vision Within The Mirror

About...
I began work on this album with one particular image I wanted to recreate: the still-vivid memory of a "waking dream" I experienced while deep in the throws of a delirium, suffering through a very bad fever late at night; I was perhaps 8 years of age. Laying on my side on my bed, I was staring into the mirror on the wall across from me, dimly lit from light in the hallway outside my bedroom. Only partially conscious, sweating, sick and shaking from chills brought on by the fever - I stared, hypnotized, at what appeared to be an image of a railroad crossing at a country road before a wall of tall trees on an overcast day; several vaguely visible figures were standing near the crossing (the scene appeared to be viewed from a distance of about 100 feet away), one of which was a woman in a long dress, constantly waving both arms up and down while apparently in a conversation with one of the other standing figures. This image literally lasted for hours as I faded in and out of conciousness, and felt like I was watching some kind of long movie.

I made several deliberate attempts to recreate this childhood fever-dream imagery in sonic form over the course of the album project, but was never happy with the results until much later on when I started moving my focus away from software-based guitar processing and into pedal/hardware effects instead.

The final satisfactory version of 2AM Vision Within The Mirror ultimately was the result of an amalgam of actually two separate experiments with guitar processed through various specialized distortions and delays; quite surprisingly, the resulting "mash-up" of the two completely different tracks somehow seemed to line up perfectly...and in the process did an excellent job of recreating that fever-induced image within the darkened mirror.

Instrumentation Notes...
Performed as two entirely separate pieces that amazingly seemed to line up perfectly when combined, on my Schecter Tempest Blackjack, .

- Listen to a sample of 2AM Vision Within The Mirror
Amelia

Amelia

About...
This was another case of the music inspiring the connected visual imagery after the fact. One evening on an impulse I picked up my Strat, tuned up, plugged in and just started playing without any pre-planning or idea where I would be going with it. The opening notes, an almost explosive thunderclap sound followed by an engine-like drone, generated an immediate mental image for me: an old prop-driven aircraft, flying at night through a thunderstorm, perhaps as seen in an old black-and-white movie. As I continued to play and loop, the track seemed to become more tense and then more quiet and gentle over time, and ultimately ending in a sad, lonely, almost childlike way. Based on this, I gave the track the working title of "Doomed Flight" with the intent to return to it later on.

However, it wasn't until some months later while listening to a rough mix of the track through headphones while sitting on a beach that everything suddenly fell into place...and I realized just who it must've been on that "doomed flight" and how it tragically ended. The small digital camera I had with me at the time also recorded digital audio; grabbing it, I ran to the ocean's edge and recorded the waves crashing onto the sand as I imagined the pilot of a particular tragic flight trying to crawl from the wreckage through the breakers towards shore...and Amelia was born.

Instrumentation Notes...
Performed in two separate looping tracks on my Fender Stratocaster. Ocean recorded on the beach at the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island, Virginia.

- Listen to a sample of Amelia
The Neon Depths

The Neon Depths

About...
Like "Missing Prototype", The Neon Depths was not based on any actual memory of a real time, place or event - but instead, a simple visual idea that popped into my head as I was performing it: the concept of one's surroundings become brighter and more visually intense while falling deeper into an abyss...as opposed to the more traditional idea of "deeper" equating "darker", as it might while deep-diving into an ocean, exploring a cave, etc.

Instrumentation Notes...
Performed straight through (not looping) in three tracks, on my Schecter Tempest Blackjack.

- Listen to a sample of The Neon Depths
The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song)

The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song)

About...
Of all the songs on "Obscura", this one is perhaps the most personal and nearest to my heart...

Both my previous album "Dream Tower Blueprints" and this one - end with songs about, to be frank, death and the passing of a loved one: "Surcease" (from "Dream Tower...") concerned the passing of my Mother, and The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song) is about the final moments on Earth of our dear, sweet little cat Teddy - who's suffering from cancer we mercifully brought to an end on January 30, 2008.

In both cases, it was never my intention to write a song about the subject - but instead, the song seemed to write itself and make its own purpose known after I had recorded it. In the case of The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song), its gentle, whistful nature made itself clear to me as I was recording it - and I felt compelled to try to make it as perfect as I could as I was playing. I wasn't quite sure what or who the song was about at that point, but I knew it was about something/someone very important to me. Only after listening to the final results did it become clear to me that this song must be about our Teddy.

His passing was an emotionally traumatic experience for me, and I still tear up every time I replay his gentle, painless passing in my mind: his loud, happy robust purr slowly fading away as his eyes closed for the last time. It was very important to me that The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song) be the perfect tribute to his loving memory, and I still tear up every time I hear it - so hopefully I succeeded.

Instrumentation Notes...
Performed on a combination of looped and non-looped tracks, on my Schecter Tempest Blackjack. The nature sounds also featured in this piece were recorded in my back yard.

- Listen to a sample of The Forever Sleep (Teddy's Song)

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