New Detholz! demo – “Lost Weekend #5”

Welcome to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXVII!

Before we begin this week, my sincere apologies to regular readers for my truancy from the blog last week and the tardiness of this week’s posting. The writer’s block I wrote about in the last post persisted — and worsened — to the point where I was:

a. questioning my own sanity

b. seriously doubting my abilities

and

c. experiencing an extreme case of the Doldrums

In short, due to my gimpiness (gimpitude? Gimpity?) I had nothing of value to offer you last week.

A related note: I’ve added an RSS feed in the sidebar, so if you’re one of those futuristic types that subscribes to RSS feeds, you can now click on the link and never have to bother checking back here again. Do so every so often, though, just so I don’t get lonely floating out here in the blogosphere. You feeders don’t register in my stats engine.

Anyway, now that that unpleasantness is out of the way, on with the show, I say, on with the show!

This week, a tour through one of the world’s greatest hearts of darkness:

LOST WEEKEND #5

I literally half-finished over 11 songs before completing “Lost Weekend #5.” ALL of them are terrible– and this one may be, too. Initial reactions from the band are positive, but… I haven’t made up my mind about “Lost Weekend” yet.

1. SONG CONCEPT

After stumbling across a stunning piece of kitsch on YouTube, I knew what the subject of my next song would be: the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey. The YouTube piece is a documentary divided into 10 parts called “Speak of the Devil.” HIGHLY recommended viewing:

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL

A large portion of the second section can be skipped — it’s a long clip of LaVey’s first television appearance on a 60’s children’s show called “Brother Buzz” that seems to revolve around a pair of bumblebee puppets. On second thought, don’t skip it. It’s amazing! The clip centers on LaVey’s pet lion, Togare, which he was eventually forced to donate to the San Francisco zoo by jittery neighbors.

There is so much rich material in “Speak of the Devil,” I almost don’t know where to start.

LaVey makes extraordinary claims about himself and his past. He is articulate, funny and obviously a world-class nerd, waxing on and on about Johnson-Smith gag catalogs he would read as a child (and apparently kept under his pillow as an adult), his years as a crime scene photographer for the SFPD in the 50’s, or– my personal favorite — his mannequin collection in the “Den of Iniquity,” presumably the den in the famous Black House in San Francisco. He literally built his friends, citing his growing misanthropy.

It was a form of ultra-realistic sculpture — he would deliberately sculpt the faces of the mannequins to be ugly or distorted and his collection included prostitutes and shady-looking men. Lavey would sit and talk to them, preferring their company to that of “real” people. In the film, he seems a tad embarrassed by his creations, citing others who were more adept at ultra-realistic sculpture than he.

LaVey was also a pedigreed theater organist, so there are long clips of him playing his collection of home organs and talking about his years playing calliope in the Clyde Beatty circus after he ran away from home at the age of 17. Or so he claims. He’s a great player and made a few records in his day, most notably “Satan Takes a Holiday,” a collection of songs from his repertoire as a burlesque organist.

The documentary piqued my interest about LaVey — an apparent 60’s B-list crank whose story, of course, I found irresistable. In my further research, I ran across http://www.churchofsatan.org (as opposed to the official website of the Church of Satan, http://www.churchofsatan.com). It is apparently maintained by a splinter group of disgruntled satanists — including LaVey’s own daughter. There is a fascinating page about the “legends” vs. the “realities” about Anton LaVey that I found illuminating.

If you’re interested, the page is here: http://www.churchofsatan.org/lavey.html

If not, I’ll list a few that pertain to the song:

1. He claimed to have had an affair with Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield. According to churchofsatan.org, her agent set up a meeting between them, using LaVey as a foil for a cheap publicity stunt. LaVey was captivated by the actress but she spurned his advances and thought him “laughable.” To further humiliate him, she would call him at home to taunt him while his followers listened in.

2. He claimed to be a close friend of singer Sammy Davis, Jr., who was awarded an honorary membership into the Church of Satan. According to churchofsatan.org, LaVey was not present when Davis accepted the membership and didn’t meet him until years later.

3. He claimed to be the official “city organist” of San Francisco, hired to perform at gala events and political meetings. According to churchofsatan.org, the very idea of a “city organist” is absurd, and LaVey’s only income before beginning the Church of Satan was as a house Wurlitzer organist at a club called the “Lost Weekend.” (Perhaps the greatest name for a burlesque nightclub imaginable. Reminds me of the “Cafe Remember” in the heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light district.)

4. He claimed to be a devoted family man, but according to his own children, was an angry, abusive father and husband.

Bear in mind that this website seems to have been set up by people who have somehow run afoul of the official Church of Satan or harbor some sort of grudge, so… when it comes to satanists, people who pledge allegiance to the biblical Father of Lies, it’s tough to know who to believe.

I made a conscious effort to resist the temptation (so to speak) to include a lot of spiritual or religious imagery in this song. My fascination with LaVey’s story has nothing to do with satanism, which seems to be some sort of juvenile bastardization of the philosophy of Ayn Rand with a little occult spice thrown in for shock value. (No offense meant to any practicing satanists who may have stumbled across this blog — hey, it’s a free country. I’m big into role-playing games myself!)

LaVey strikes me as a person with a powerful inferiority complex — a desperate and clinging need for attention that drove him to ridiculous extremes (like founding an “eeevil!” religion). “His own worst enemy,” if you believe his family’s accounts, he was enormously dissatisfied and unhappy. As a result, he became the consummate showman, a silver-tongued pitchman, and cloaked himself in dime-store myths and comic-book fantasies, driven by his rage and insecurity.

In one sense, I guess you could say his devils made him do it!

2. SONG COMPOSITION

This one took two solid days of tweaking to get right — and I’m still not sure everything about it IS right.

I knew two things as I sat down: as an homage to Anton, I wanted to construct the song’s elements from a palette of 60’s home organ tones. I also wanted to use a bossa rhythm, like one you might find on a Wurlitzer back in the day.

I actually own a Wurlitzer home organ that I pillaged from an organ store that was closing its doors but it resides at the band house, so I had to settle for VST organs. Thankfully Native Instruments’ Kontakt 3 VST sampler comes with an excellent repository of vintage organ tones. When recording using VST, I’ve discovered it helps never to take a preset sample at face value. It really helps to know something about the instrument being emulated.

I tweaked the organs’ EQ’s quite a bit, downsampled them to mono, and ran them through another excellent Native Instruments VST program, Guitar Rig. While this VST is designed to emulate different amps and guitar rackmounts, I use it for its spring reverb which is the closest I’ve heard to the real thing in digi-world.  Guitar Rig is useful for more instruments than just guitars!

A geeky side note: as I’ve said before, I recently switched from an ancient version of Emagic’s Logic Audio Platinum to Steinberg’s Nuendo as my primary DAW software (that’s Digital Audio Workstation for those who may not know). While I miss certain aspects of Logic — especially in the mixing window — Nuendo is FAR more intuitive and easy to use. I much prefer how it handles MIDI information to Digidesign’s ProTools and would strongly recommend it – even if you’re just starting out. ESPECIALLY if you’re just starting out.

The vocals on “Lost Weekend” were by far the most difficult elements of the song to get right. I ended up doing so many takes, I was hoarse by the end of the session (which you can hear if you listen closely). Initially, I did a few really aggressive “Detholz-ian” takes where I belted out the lyrics at full throttle, “TT Peterbilt Semi”-style (see previous post).

As I listened back, however, it became clear what this song needed was a soft, almost deadpan delivery which is what ended up on the recording. I concentrated mainly on getting the pitches right — this song is a real beast to sing — and doubled the verses. There’s a three-part harmony on the choruses (the words “baby believer”) that was originally different. The high part descended on its last note, which is much more consonant. I thought it sounded too “stock” (to quote from Lars Ulrich in “Some Kind of Monster”), so I tried ascending instead and — voila! Much creepier and more interesting, IMHO.

This is a call from the ether of blogdom: PLEASE comment on this song and let me know what you think.!It’s one of those numbers that floats in the Twilight Zone for me — not bad, but ot great, either. To quote from the book of Revelation, “because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

Should this song be spewed as the spawn of Satan?  Or not?

Tune in next week for the stunning conclusion!

3. LYRICS

LOST WEEKEND #5

Sit in the den and build a friend
Home for the weekend
From the Weekend

A bawdy house brought down again
By your organs
Wurlitzer organs

Deep in the house,
Beyond the black paint,
Mannequin men and whores:

You’re alone in the dark
Talking to devils inside of your heart:
An infant inside –
You’re a baby believer

On a Fantasy ride
Cannot believe what you cannot devise
The carnival cries
For the baby believer

A psycho drama with a Drama Queen:
Miss Mansfield is a mine field
Use Sammy Davis as a go-between?
Mediocre kind of feeling

Tomorrow night, another bawdy beguine
At the Weekend
The Lost Weekend

Lack-of-attention family man
Slug the wife as hard as you can
Run down the hall and talk to your dolls
Another weekend lost
Weekend lost

Alone in the dark
Talking to devils inside of your heart:
An infant inside –
You’re a baby believer

On a Fantasy ride
Cannot believe what you cannot devise
The carnival cries
For the baby believer

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10 Responses to “New Detholz! demo – “Lost Weekend #5””

  1. bp Says:

    I have to say this one works pretty well as a piece of music. It’s so smooth, understated, melancholic, and creepy. I actually feel sad for the guy when I read through the lyrics and listen to the song, so I’d say mission accomplished. Like you mention, there’s probably a tweak or two that could be done, but in this context, it would have to be pretty subtle to avoid spoiling the overall feel. I’m guessing the band might be able to add that last little bit, though. By the way, nice Metallica documentary reference in the explanation. I love that movie–talk about real-life Spinal Tap!

  2. Phil Says:

    Definitely a fascinating subject to write a song about. I’m always impressed with the topics you find to write about. Knowing the context of the song definitely helps me appreciate it.

    With that being said, I like this song, but it’s not my favorite Detholz! composition (at least after three listens). It definitely seems like a “grower” – the type of song that gets better the more you listen to it. I love the harmonies on the line “Baby Believer”. The bass line that starts off the song (and continues throughout) is great. The vocal performance and song composition are tops. It’s obvious that you put a lot of time and detail into getting this song as close to perfect as possible.

    In the end, the song doesn’t jump out at me like some of your other ones do (Spectacula, Club Oslo, Psychotherapy, etc.), it lacks that certain addictive fall-in-love-at-first-listen spark, but it’s definitely a good song. Your blog is always a fascinating read/listen, keep up the god work.

    One quick note: after listening to the song again, I’m thinking it could use a stronger ending?

    Disclaimer: Take my opinion with a grain of salt, though as I tend to have weird taste (example: I’ve really been digging “Hand and Brain” lately).

  3. kebabdylan Says:

    i really really really really really really like this one. Listened twice in a row. Loved it from the first moment.

    It has a brand spankin’ new “feel” to it that I have not heard from you. Great melodies. Whatever struggles you had singing it I think gives it a more “vulnerable” sound which works great with the subject and mood.

    I will comment more later. gotta run.

  4. Santa Says:

    The Wizard is under your skin.

    Bow to Fate.

    WORSHIP THE ORGAN!

  5. detholz Says:

    bp: Yeah, “Monster” is must-see TV for anyone running in the “I’m in a band” rat race. I literally hooted and howled my way through that film.

    Structurally, there is definitely room for improvement here, I agree completely. Andrew (DH! drummer) suggested extending the hypno-noise tags at the ends of the choruses, and another listener suggested that the song is far too short.

    Given the positive responses this one is getting across the board, we’ll likely hash it out in rehearsal.

    Yeah, that Jayne Mansfield would go to such lengths to harass Anton LaVey definitely evoked a sense of sympathy for the man. He strikes me as the eternal junior higher.

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful input!

    Phil: Actually, I’m glad someone’s getting something out of “Hand and Brain.” It was panned across the board, esp. within the band, but I also feel an affinity to that tune. It’s a less embarrassing “Scientific Eye,” which is a real turkey on our first record that deals with similar subject matter, albeit in a more ham-handed manner.

    You voice my reservations about the song– that it kind of just hangs in space for awhile and vaporizes at the end. I’m used to writing in much more punchy style, as you know, so this was an interesting experiment.

    I’m curious to see how the overall vibe will change once the rest of the band gets their claws into it.

    Glad you enjoy the blog– it’s satisfying to write knowing that someone out there in the ether is getting something out of it. Y’all come back, now, hear?

    ‘Bab: Funny that Phil characterizes the vocal performance as “tops” and you notice the large number of warbles and clams– which almost prevented me from posting the song at all. There are some “cringe” moments for me as I listen back.

    I’m generally not a fan of intentionally “bad” singing, but this one seemed to lend itself to a more inexact approach. I’m happy you think it adds to the effect– that was definitely the intention.

    Santa: Whishhhhh!

    ASK SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX.

    WooooOOOOOoooooOOOOOOoooo…

  6. Wotsac Says:

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It’s all about organs.

  7. Amy Says:

    This is terrific! The ending needs work, but you’ve really hit on something. The lyrics are *especially* good. “Slug the wife as hard as you can…
    Run down the hall and talk to your dolls” is terrifying and yet absurd. Striking parallels between man and infant there, too — excellent emphasis on his utter inability to control anything at all (at least within the context of the song). Those two weeks weren’t wasted if this is what those days spawned.

    Can’t wait to hear more in this vein!

  8. Elaine Says:

    Having already tendered my opinion to you, I will just officially state that this is quickly becoming, to me, one of the triumvirate of Stellar Songs of Late. I agree that it’s a new sort of genre: not so much a Detholz fan-dance hit from the land of kitsch, but smooth and creepy, and quite “Carnival of Souls meets 70s beach theme.”

    It was in my head all weekend, ironically enough.

  9. detholz Says:

    Wotsac: Always thinking.

    Amy: Thanks. I definitely found LaVey to be the proverbial “Baby Man” (to quote Bobby Conn) on many levels. Control –or the lack thereof– is a stereotypically male conceit. LaVey was definitely “old school” in that regard.

    Elaine: This comment made me laugh!

  10. The Transformation of “Lost Weekend” « Detholz! Mp3 Blog Says:

    […] Our case study: Lost Weekend <–The demo is re-posted here for your convenience. For an exhaustive discussion of the lyrical and musical content of this song, click here. […]

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