There are a lot of things about being in a band that are inspiring. Playing live, and the looks on people's faces who are loving every second of your set provide the kind of inspiration that can make you forget about how mundane your nine to five gig is. I particularly love the random "God DAMN!" that you sometimes hear a nanosecond before the applause starts at the end of a song when someone has just had their face melted off in a completely unexpected way. Then there is the inspiration that comes from finally having your crap together enough to make it into a studio, where you actually get to 'hear' your music as an outsider. But the most inspiring thing about playing in a band comes in the practice space. No, not the hookers and blow. I have actually never seen either of those rock staples in our practice rooms. I'm referring to that spontaneous moment when everything clicks and you and the three or four guys you've been playing with for so long hit upon something that reminds you of why you ever wanted to play music in the first place... superbadass riffery!
Last weekend Loincloth had a marathon practice schedule as we took great advantage of Tannon's visit to Raleigh. Normally, Loincloth songs are constructed at roughly the same pace tectonic plates push up mountains, which is almost as long as it takes to get a human to pick up the phone and pretend to listen to you when you have a question about your cable bill. Last Saturday, Tannon and I had one of those moments with a new riff when all we could do was laugh at how heavy it was. We were able to get the entire rough sketch for a song strung together that night. With the addition of one tiny note to a riff we already knew, the two of us found ourselves propelled into a world of chunky delight! Knuckle dragging, plodding heaviness. Loincloth's lone reason for existing. After hookers and blow, of course.
Tannon showed up around six thirty, Friday night so that the two of us could start to carve out some ideas for our next record. Craig and I met Tannon at our favorite Mexican place, and Monica joined us around seven thirty. We always spend at least as much time laughing as chewing whenever we go out to eat, and there was a kind of festive vibe about as Raleigh played host to the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual gathering. A couple of the waiters asked me why there were so many old white dudes with beards down to their chests. They wondered if all of them were famous. I told them they'd see dozens, if not hundreds of men just like them over the course of the weekend. Big beards and dumb hats. They were delighted. We finished our dinner around nine and then Tannon and I went down to the space to let the diabolical heaviness flow freely.
Thomas met us at the practice space and we spent the entire night working out a few finer details of the one song we had already written for our next album. Tannon and I always agonized over each and every note, so digging into the haystack to fine tune the needle is precisely the manner in which we roll. Confessor has always done things the same way, but not to the nearly insane extent that Loincloth takes things. We wrapped things up at four forty five the next morning. Hey, at least I was in bed before the sun came up! The first composition for our second anthology of greatest hits was in the books, and we had another day ahead of us. Things were going well.
Saturday afternoon found us back in the space by two thirty in the afternoon. Craig had about an hour to spend with us before he had to leave for a show he was playing with his flamenco band. We went over some of the songs from our set until he had to leave, and then we revisited the tweaks we made to our new song with Thomas until he had to leave to grade some papers. Sometime around four thirty Tannon and I started working on some new riffage he had ready to roll. By the time six o'clock rolled around the two of us had hit something so incredibly satisfying that we were simply giddy! The best 'gimmicks' that we use are almost always the really simple ones. Busier riffs tend to lose me, and since we are as much of a rhythmic band as a guitar oriented band we have better luck finding the right place to "pull the rug out" from underneath a riff with tiny shifts. By that, I mean that we try and write little shifts that make the rhythm change in a way that makes you ask if someone bumped into the stereo. If you're lucky you can see a person look like they lost their balance for a split second before the riff settles back to a constant rhythm. Kind of like when you're playing video games and you almost fall out of your seat because you are trying to push your character harder and harder out of the way of whatever animated menace is more important than fixing the leak in your toilet. We simply added one note to a riff that was already heavy as hell, and the next thing we knew we were both crapping in our pants. Crapping and laughing like excited kids in a playground. "Hey Tannon, This dead cat I found under the see saw is cool! Betcha' won't eat it if I stick it up my butt! Whoa, give me a second to pull it out, eager beaver! Gross, it fell on the ground... Hey, don't eat it all! You're right, it is better warm! Now you heat it up"
Loincloth and Confessor both seek out those moments that are so heavy your initial reaction is to laugh out loud. The first time I ever had that reaction was the first time I heard Metallica's legendary track, "For Whom the Bell Tolls". That record helped define what underground bands were about, or were soon to be about, back in the mid eighties. Since then "heavy" has evolved from the "mosh part" to any number of styles ranging from dark mysticism to club mix dance tracks. The heaviest moments still make me laugh the first time I hear them. Those moments literally hit you in a way you can feel. Playing heavy music allows you to experience that physical connection all the time, and that above all else is why I have played heavy music for so long. It's like crack, and those who 'get it' hit rewind over and over again because they can't get enough of it. The riff that Tannon and I discovered last weekend hit us both... hard!
We took a dinner break with Monica around seven, and then returned to the space to see what else we could add to the song we were working on. One thing about spontaneous greatness ( feel free to roll your eyes at that ) is that it can be very difficult to recreate. When we got back to that special riff I couldn't remember exactly what I had been playing before dinner. Dammit! I was close, but some of the impact was lost. I never panicked, but I was beginning to wish we had recorded the riff before we left for dinner. I rarely forget something once I've played it a few times, but during the discovery process things run the risk of morphing without you even realizing it's happening. I did eventually stumble onto the same beat, but it took hours to get it back. Thomas got back around nine and watched the two of us build the rest of the song in eight second spurts until five o'clock Sunday morning. It was great to watch the expression on his face when he heard the part that filled our pants with happy fudge, even if I wasn't playing it exactly the same way at first. Cary got to share those moments with us when we were writing Iron Balls of Steel. It was nice to share that experience with Thomas after thirty years of friendship.
Pen and Tannon originally had a term for when, as men who "go commando" know all too well, one's... ahem, methane portal finds itself kissing denim because of an urgent need to find a bathroom or an over-exuberant liberation of gas, usually related to an attention seeking performance of some kind. They described these dignified moments as "Touching Cloth". The term has evolved into a measure of urgency, or of excitement. Once Thomas' own pantaloons filled with happy fudge, he "touched cloth" and became an official member of The Cloth. A round of applause please, for Mr. Thomas!
Fourteen and a half hours, minus a dinner break. That's what inspiration can do for you... make you forget about the passing of time, slowly increasing back pain, loss of all sensation in your legs or in Tannon's case, the pain of cracked ribs and four screws in his fretting hand. Not to mention the need to catch up on some much needed and well deserved sleep! Maybe some bands use hookers and blow to keep them going, but we prefer to derive our inspiration from brutal, unadulterated heaviness. If we hold true to our ideals, this next album will outdo our first record. I for one, cannot wait to hear whatever we write for round two!