In late July, just as this whole Q*Ball Collaboration Project had officially gotten off the ground, I went out to California for a few days to take part in Metal Blade's West Coast Metal Summit, a 'meeting of the minds' amongst players in the metal world. On my second day out there, I hit the gym early in the morning and started pounding the treadmill extra hard. My time on the treadmill is indicative of my life, in general - too much to do and not enough time to do it all in, often finding myself going as hard and fast as I can to squeeze in every little thing.
After about 15 minutes hitting it hard at about 5.5 MPH on a steep incline, an old woman mounted the treadmill next to mine and was plodding along at about 2.0 while I sucked wind next to her, my arms flailing, some thunderous metal pounding thru my skull. At a certain point, I noticed the woman paying close attention to me and then trying to get my attention. I removed my earbuds, panting, and smiled as the woman struck up a conversation with me. She scolded me for going at it so hard, noticed my heavy breathing and my serious sweat. "This is why young people from your generation are dropping dead," she told me. "You run too hard, too fast. Slow down, you're going to have a stroke."
The old woman - who was in her 80s - had a point. If you don't pace yourself, you're gonna collapse under the weight of all the things you're trying to do all at once. The Q*Ball Collaboration Project was designed for just this sort of pace - a song a month, no pressure, no restrictions besides just putting out one quality piece of music to the masses every calendar month. Seems easy, but it's been hard - maybe running a label with a very small staff, fronting and promoting two bands, working two full-time jobs in the radio world, and whatever other creative projects I have going on have something to do with that. Probably, huh?
This month, I planned to release a moody piano tune that I've had in my back pocket for awhile now, a song that my Return To Earth band mate Chris Pennie had added some magic to a few months ago. But as all musicians know, musical plans often go awry, and this tune was not yet ready for prime time. There was no way I was going to finish arranging and tracking the song in time to have it mixed, mastered, get artwork done, yadda yadda. So I'm pacing myself. It'll come out when it's ready, hopefully January.
So I turned to Bumblefoot (aka 'Ol' Reliable'), back from his recent European sojourn with GnR. The backup plan was to work on a song he and I had jammed on a few months back that was inspired by The Cars' "Moving In Stereo". But I just wasn't feeling the vibe - the riff was too happy, and for better or worse, I have not been in a happy place as of late. I found myself falling into the same traps of lyrical composition, the same subject matter that I was growing tired of writing about and hoping to avoid for the sake of my own mental (in)sanity. So we scrapped it. Into the B-side trunk it went, and while we were in there, we pulled out another relic from the 'This Is Serious Business' sessions.
This tune was entitled 'Bulldog' and it had a healthy mix of musical synergy already in place - Bumblefoot's funky bass and guitar shuffle, combined with a few padded strings and hip-hop style leads from the MicroKorg I had laid down. I had always liked this one, so removing the dusty sheet and rediscovering what was underneath was fun. Now it was time to tweak the arrangement, flesh it out, and get the lyrics and vocals rolling. Bumble came up with the chorus - I wanted it big, so we laid a sweetly layered two part harmony down. This was followed by the traditional celebratory sushi feast. We were debating over whether to do some rap-like verses, but I settled on the rhythmic whisper as a nice compliment to the very melodic chorus. Bumble laid down an undersea-funk solo in the bridge and I played around with my new Korg Kaossilator (LOVE that thing) to add an interesting sonic touch or two. I crawled home at 1am, another 18 hour day in the books.
'Submarine' is essentially about life on the treadmill, only with aquatic imagery and themes. Sometimes you just wanna disappear from the world, let somebody else deal with your problems, but no matter how deep you descend, it seems that things can somehow get worse. And there's no escape. If you attempt an easy solution - some quick patchwork - you're gonna wind up getting burned (or sunk, in this case) anyway. There are few easy solutions in life. One minute you're floating fancy free, and the next minute - BOOM - your world is turned upside down. So pace yourself - accept life for its many twists and turns, for the various journeys it leads you on. It's tempting - especially in the face of failure - to try to 'catch up' on what you think you're missing out on, but a big part of me believes that 'slow and steady' could win the race. After toiling in the fields of independent music for as long as I have, it's a maxim I need to live by, or I'm gonna prove that old woman on the treadmill right.
I'm an introspective guy, that's just who I am. I probably think too hard and too much about certain things that I think are important. My music is definitely high on that list - so are other things like love, family, and career. I guess the real treadmill that needs slowing down is my mind. I've been thinking way too much, and I guess making myself as busy as I've been these past few years has been my way of distracting myself from all that thinking. But you can't escape your thoughts, you have to live with them and you have to deal with them, no matter what adventures await you. 'Submarine' is my latest adventure and I hope you enjoy it.