I arrived in Seattle on the evening of November 8th to meet with Sam at Luscious Studios--his home/obscenely drafty near-squat in Pioneer Square where I held my first funeral. A quick shuttle across town to Gallery 1412--where we would be spending the better part of a week recording--to drop off the ridiculous amassment of broken keyboards and toys that somehow passes for our equipment. Then to tea and talk of life's crippling maladies, villainy, and kittens. I slept in Sam's bed--a piece of foam atop a large sheet of plywood suspended some seven feet off of the ground by chains from the ceiling--which he has largely abandoned since a drunken tumble some months ago resulted in the (permanent?) loss of his sense of smell. Sam's elder brother has been storing most of his belongings in Sam's room--primarily a ridiculous assortment of percussive scrap metal (circular saw blades, an empty beer keg, etc.)--sullying the younger Mickens' typically spartan aesthetic with an unnavigable mass of random shit.
Early the next day, Jherek and I met at the gallery for an honest days worth of work trying make sense of the ten songs that would become the next (first?) Parenthetical Girls record--an undertaking that would prove surprisingly straight forward, all things considered. Tonight was the first night that I began to loose my voice. Following a pleasant evening at Jenny and Jherek's home--surrounded by the nostalgia-soaked nicknacks of the house's lady--I was coaxed out into the cold by familiar darts of shame to Wednesday night karaoke at the Crescent with Sam and a trio of his co-workers. My first visit to the Crescent, I was taken aback that such an alien form of depressive depravity had existed just under my nose for those years I lived on Capitol Hill, merely blocks from my house. Meredith and Jessica did "Like A Prayer." Sam did "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," which may very well be the longest song ever written--did you know that the third verse starts with the line "Heartbreak, enemy despise"? Weird, right? I almost got Sam to perform "Toxicity" before I left, but that would come later. Special kudos go out to the weird mustachioed dyke in the leather jacket who had the nerve to take on "Subterranean Homesick Blues"--perhaps the most indulgent karaoke selection of all time, with the possible exception "It's the End Of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)."
By Thursday, the toll of sleeping at Sam's for two nights while fighting a cold had begun to take it's toll (not to mention the sheer volume of tea I had begun to consume with little regard for outside hydration), and I found the eight hours of concentrated labor both taxing and invigorating. Mostly exhausting. It was Thursday that Sam began to develop a cute/troubling relationship with an oversized Care Bear that through some sophomoric cognitive leap quickly became affectionately known as AIDS Bear. AIDS Bear would accompany Sam through the streets of Seattle on his long journeys from Luscious to the gallery, as well as keep his tired ass company for the hours that he dozed on the gallery's futon. We broke at dark to allow for Sam and Jherek to performance with Subtle later that evening, and I spent a couple of hours desperately attempting to finalize the lyrics to the many unfinished songs. I was unsuccessful. Subtle was surprisingly awesome. I slept on Jenny and Jherek's couch, comfortably.
Two hours after our scheduled meeting time on Friday, Sam called to tell me that he--after a night of typical Mickensian debauchery--was stuck in the distant depths of Georgetown, and that if I wanted him to contribute today, I would have to go retrieve him. after the half-hour-plus drive there and back, he played a few brief tracks, passed out on the couch with AIDS Bear, and then went to work. This would be the first of several 12 hour days that Jherek and I would spend on the album. At one point while walking down Broadway on a lunch break, I ran into an old girlfriend who has refused to speak to me for upwards of four years. I greeted her as she approached me, and in response she offered an eye-dodged "hi" and NO STOP AND CHAT. I realize that I may have undoubtedly wronged this person beyond any stretch of forgiveness, but seriously--wouldn't you be the least bit curious? Running into someone randomly in a city foreign to them after at least two years of absence? The least bit?
Saturday would be another largely sans-Mickens day, with Jherek and I working until the Dead Science convened for a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island for a show. I spent the rest of the evening desperately attempting to re-hydrate myself at Victrola--first with Scott, then alone--as I finally finished the words to the songs. Almost. Later that night, I happily took in a handful of noise/free music performances at the gallery wherein we had been recording days, which was celebrating its one year anniversary. Scheduled to play after the mad dash home from Bainbridge, two-thirds of the Dead Science arrived only after a 45 minute lull had largely decimated the audience. Then they started to play jazz. By the time Jherek arrived (by bus, carrying his upright bass the whole way), the scene had grown from dismal to hostile, and--to paraphrase Les Claypool--it was all down hill from there. After a few Dead Science songs and several minutes of indecision, they settled on a surprisingly faithful rendition of System Of a Down's "Toxicity" (finally), and a less than faithful rendition of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones." It was at roughly this point that Sam instigated a 35 minute "rap battle" amongst all of the remaining members of the audience, much to virtually no one's pleasure. The night ended badly.
Sunday was a day primarily devoted to finishing the words in earnest, and initial editing/mixing. I can't for the life of me remember what I did that evening, but I do know that I returned to Sam's precarious loft, this time with more blankets. Oh, wait--that's right... Sam showed me the first three installments of his recently completed Greasy Demon Heat performance cycle. Pretty awe-inspiring. Ashamed to have missed it.
Monday was our final day with Sam--adding some finishing touches on a handful of songs at the gallery, and then retiring to Jherek's house for some very rousing work with the very talented Mr. Ambrose Nortness. Definitely the most exciting part of the record. You'll see. For my final evening with Sam, we ate a pleasant late night dinner in the International District at a restaurant with a crab tank, discussing life's crippling maladies and our week's work. I retired to Sam's loft with yet more blankets.
Tues: three additional instrumental tracks, finishing touches on the vocal tracks, and mixing forever. Ran into the ever pleasant Caralee McElroy at, of all places, an internet cafe. What a fucking pleasure. This inexplicable run-in also allowed me a brief chat with Mr. Stewart--also a pleasure. By 10:30 pm I was barreling alone down I-5 with a single headlight (like the Wallflowers song, but not) and no small amount of exhaustion. Three hours later I was home, awaiting work the next morning. Barring some rather probable nightmare, I think that the record may be all but done. Wonders never cease.
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