Posts Tagged ‘songwriting’

Travelers of Tyme present: “DC Metro” a new single for $1

January 25, 2011
  • This single that is a tribute to the Washington D.C. metro supports the efforts of the Travelers to create a full-length and go boldly where no band has gone before. Available in most elite formats from $1→WhatYouChooseToGive! 

    Originally entered into the Washington Post Metro-Music contest. The B-side got 2nd place and attributed oddly to John Yaya! ( Keeping the mystery alive in 2011!

    DOWNLOAD CONTAINS: Desktop backgrounds of cover art to adorn your computational device!

Picture it: a lonesome subterranean train platform. A balding man in a rumpled black suit stands, waiting, anxiously checking his watch, too often. He rocks on his heels. His train is late, so very late. And what is his final destination? Not one of us can answer that with any certainty, can we? So we might as well be patient. (Just don’t tell that to the Waiting Man. Our secret…) 

An empty train arrives – but it’s not the Waiting Man’s train. As the doors open, they unfold in slow motion as a beautiful brunette in a crisp pant suit emerges like a swan from a swirling gray mist. She seems not to walk but to hover, gliding across the platform, a gorgeous spectre existing beyond Tyme and space. With a wink and a slight smile to the Waiting Man, she mounts the escalator and is carried into an unknown fog above. What is her final destination? Who can say? Perhaps she has already arrived!

As for the Waiting Man, his train is still running late. And it always will be.


▲ ▲ ▲

The Travelers of Tyme present “Misty Businesswoman” b/w “Last Train to Limbo,” 2 songs constructed using sound samples of the Washington DC Metrorail. Whether you are waiting, in transit, or have already arrived at your destination, this music is specially designed to enhance your travel experience.

Thank you for spending six minutes and fifty-five seconds with us. We hope that you enjoy the rest of your Tyme in this Universe. It is a pleasant one.


Professor John Yaya and Doctor Klem
The Travelers of Tyme

DRAC – “Piece of Heaven”

December 31, 2008

Greetings, troglodytes, & Happy Last Year of the Aughties!

Before we begin, a short advertisement for the Detholz! show THIS SATURDAY, JANUARY 3rd @ SCHUBAS w/PINK DEVIL & SONOI (ex-MANISHEVITZ)!

This will be Detholz! last appearance in its current configuration — more news on that will be forthcoming — but why not ring in the New Year once the ringing in your ears from your punishing hangover has ceased by joining us for a fantastic billing. PINK DEVIL is the new project of our compatriot (and my new neighbor), Danny Black, and SONOI is the newest outing for the leading members of our booking agency rostermates, MANISHEVITZ. It will be a family nite not to be missed, and we will be debuting some new material as well…

Also, Facebook has finally broken the collective will of Detholz!, so if you’re a part of this nefarious, time-consuming religious cult, then why not add yourself as a fan?

Okay, on with the show…

Firstly, apologies for my long absence. Once Thanksgiving hits, my life goes into hyperspace at my various jobs & I revert to a troglodytic existence until the Yuletide tsunami has crashed and dispersed.

For this last week of 2008, I give you another installment in the full-scale musical I’m writing based loosely on the “Dracula” story (see previous post):


Some scene-setting exposition: this “aria” occurs in the middle of Act I. Without giving too much away, it’s a song sung by a vampire welcoming a major character to a vampiric trailer park (“Wallachian Manor”) in Appalachian Pennsylvania, 1956.

“Musically speaking,” (hardy har har) this musical is by far the most ambitious and challenging piece of music I’ve written yet. Not only am I composing songs, but there is all manner of ancillary material — narrative interludes, instrumental transitions, etc. — not to mention the libretto (a.k.a. the “lyrics” of the story) or the orchestration. To further complicate matters, once this is finished, I’m going to need to recruit some warm-blooded humans to cover certain parts on the recording, including female vocalists, string & brass players, and probably a percussionist or two.

Before Christmas I had a minor breakdown on this project– it just got too overwhelming. The cherry on top is that this is a Musical — a format I’ve detested my entire life (see previous post) — so I’m having to surmount a certain degree of distaste & a healthy dose of insecurity to boot. Will all of this work ultimately be worth it for an admittedly ridiculous musical adaptation of Dracula? I guess you, doughty listener, will have to be the final judge.

I’m about 5 songs into the thing now & I have the suspicion that today’s is the best of the lot. I’ve been listening to a lot of ’50’s bubblegum pop to study for this project– The Platters, in particular– so you’ll hear a lot of elements of that style appropriated for use here, incl. the classic 6/8 piano chords that run throughout the whole song & the “doo-wop” background vocals.

Another element I’m proud of is my newest toy: a theremin! I’m ham-handedly trying to learn how to play it, but it’s one of the most difficult instruments I’ve ever attempted. What is a theremin, you ask? Click here for the full skinny. It’s an early electronic instrument controlled entirely by gesture– so there’s no reference for pitch other than one’s ear. Suffice it to say, it ain’t easy. I’ve spent hours on the thing and I can barely play a scale.

What do you think of this? Yea? Nay? Neigh? Help me out, folks. By my calculation, orchestrating songs like this takes me about four times as long as writing your average Detholz! song, so it’s a big commitment.

Tune in next week for more! I’m not teasing this time!

And have a safe and resplendent New Year!



Squeeze me until my breathing ceases
Don’t catch me when I fall
Awake forever,
Warm with your fluid,
I welcome you to our piece of heaven

Floating away from earthly bodies
Pressing your lips to mine
We are forever,
Rich with the color,
I welcome you to our piece of heaven

I want to lose myself in time
I want to break free
The present is ours forever
Moist and cloudy,
You surround me,
Taste my heart,
Feel my last heartbeats…

Hold me against you
Let me feel you tremble
Swept underneath my tide
This world is ours
Always remember
I welcomed you

I welcome you!

Detholz! demo – “Yearning for Zion”

June 5, 2008



Join Detholz!, Baby Teeth, our pal, Danny Black and the Maplewood family to send Lena Yohey, former Detholz! bookie and sweetheart extraordinaire, to Nepal this Fall to work with orphans! This will be a family night you won’t want to miss — a great cause replete with bake sale and MAX POWER!

Welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXVIII!

Apologies for the late posting this week — this one is hot off the press. Literally finished it five minutes ago:



Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably read in the news about the “Yearning for Zion” ranch outside of El Dorado, Texas where Child Welfare Services, in conjunction with local law enforcement, acted on a judicial order to remove 462 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound on suspicions that they were being sexually abused.

Of course, now it’s turned into a war between State Officials and leaders of the FLDS, with the children caught in the middle. As a result of the massive raid, these kids were held in state custody until an appeals court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to detain them. Child Protective Services has appealed that decision.

This song is not about the YFZ debacle per se, but I used it as a jumping-off point.

I have known a few people that have come from fairly extreme religious backgrounds, such that the religion itself becomes an invisible predator of sorts. In the case of these poor kids — and God knows what they’re experiencing on this ranch — it’s possible that they’re being subjected to literal white slavery imparted by the particularly legalistic denomination into which they were born.

In my own experience wrestling with faith, I’ve never had to deal with that kind of extreme behavior, but I understand a little bit of what’s it like to feel smothered as a kid by lofty religious ideals beyond my understanding.

I guess this song is a lament for these children and, by extension, for a collective inner child oppressed by family and by religion.

I call upon “Mother Texas” — a particularly bloody state throughout its history, especially now — to shriek on behalf of these innocents.

The “Giants” referenced are the so-called Nephilim of Genesis 6:

“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

According to the Genesis account, the Nephelim were “sons of God” (Old Testament-ese for “angels”) who desired human women and took them for their own — “whomever they chose.” Sounds like the women didn’t have much say in the matter — the angels simply saw what they wanted and took it.

An appropriate image in this case, I think.


This song happened almost completely by accident.

To start I was just screwing around on my bass to a click and voila! The song was started.

I ran across this fantastic tacky piano sound in Kontakt 3 that served my purposes swimmingly. I love dulcimer-esque piano sounds– they always remind me of the soundtrack to the movie, “Kafka,” one of my favorite sci-fi films as a high school kid.

This was one was a little different in that the melody came before the harmonic changes. I suppose that’s the “correct” way to do things, but for me it usually happens the other way around.

I used a more nasal bass tone on this track than I usually do. Also, I mixed every track down to mono and basically trashed the hell of them to dirty things up (except for the tack piano sound). After finishing a few songs, I’m getting better at doing this in Nuendo. Originally, I missed Logic — it seemed much easier for me to thrash the beejeezus out of my tracks. As I’m discovering, Nuendo has similar — and much better — functionality on the PC.

The last section of the song seemed necessary given the song’s subject matter — couldn’t really end on a high note, could it? I was definitely pulling from the bridge to “Psychotherapy” (from “Cast Out Devils, DH! 2nd record) when conceiving this part. Sometimes cut/paste between song sections works well, and this song screamed for it, in my opinion.

Tune in next week for another episode of the Detholz! Mp3 Blog!

Side note: I start a new job next week, so the update day will likely change. I’ll keep you posted.



Zion, Zion
Holy Mount of Zion
Lead an innocent child
To the Mystery Mountain

Zion, Zion
Holy Mount of Zion
Remember Abraham’s son
On the Holy Mountain?

Everything’s going be all right
Sacrifice is forever
Everything is locked up tight
You will be here forever

Listen to the words of Light
From the Books that I read you
Listen to the cries at night
Feel the gaze of the Evil Eye

Evil Eye is on me now
Evil Hands will force and feel me
Heaven’s heart is for my child
Lord, protect her from these people

Oh, Mother on the River of Blood
Oh, Mother of Ten Thousand Suns
Oh, Mother Texas, deep inside of us,
Shriek the shrieks of the women

Giants, Giants
In the mouths of Giants
Whiff of innocent blood
From the veins of the children

Giants, Giants
In the arms of giants
Between heaven and hell
Neither angel nor devil

Everything’s going to be all right
Sacrifice is not forever
Everything is locked up tight
But you will not live here forever

Listen to the songs of Light
From the lips of the children
Listen in the Texas night
Far away from the Evil Eye

Evil Eye is on you now
Evil Hands will force and feel you
Heaven’s heart is for my child
Lord, protect you from these people

Oh, Mother Texas, deep inside of us,
Shriek the shrieks of the women

New Detholz! demo – “Lost Weekend #5”

May 30, 2008

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


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:


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.


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:


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 (as opposed to the official website of the Church of Satan, 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:

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, 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, 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, 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!


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!



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

Detholz! demo – “Suburbanite”

May 7, 2008

NOTE: Detholz! play THIS FRIDAY, 5/9 @ Empty Bottle in Chicago with SINGER — a bill not to be missed! Jonny from Detholz! claims they’re one of the best acts in town. And, hey, we’ll be there, too, playing many songs from this very blogosphere.

Read Jim DeRogatis’s writeup here

Welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXVI!

This week, the track is appropriately hot off the press, like a steamy Hot Pocket:


Over the next few weeks, I’m going to hunker down and do a music-geek marathon to finish off the writing process for the next Detholz! album, currently titled “Death to the Traitor” (see previous posts)

Last week might have been a failure, but this week’s track has a little more of that special je nais sais quois…


I’m limited this time on what I can say in a public forum. Suffice it to say it was inspired by a lot of time spent in the suburbs of Chicago– parts of the suburbs one might classify as “dark underbellies.”

Yick. Suburban underbellies are far worse than urban ones.


Initially, I had planned on writing a song in 6/8, based on the ostinato you hear at the beginning of the song. I had planned a little number in the spirit of John Barry’s soundtrack to “The Black Hole” (hence the reference in the lyrics — love that movie!), which uses large, sweeping ostinatos and big brass melodies.

Instead, well… this came out: a mangled oddity that alternates between 6/4 and 4/4.

The process I used here was very similar to “Ghost of Christmas Palsy” (see previous post). Once the bass line had been established, the rest of the song was pinned up around it. The bass line is basically the same through the song, except that I alternate octaves/registers for color this time. In the end, I think this distracts from the repetitive nature of the song– you’re hearing the same notes, but in different registers, which is a handy little songwriting trick if you’re dealing with long, repetitive passages.

Constructing an interesting melody around material that is so harmonically static is like scaling a large wall. Of late, I’ve been enjoying the challenge– sometimes I go down in flames (like last week’s song), but generally, I’m pretty pleased with this week’s tune.

The “Death to the Traitor” motive (see previous posts) is back, too, in the lead-in to the choruses. This indulged my OCD drive to make every DH! album high-concept. Eek.

I also borrowed a trick from Baby Teeth (DH! sister band — Abraham’s lovely songwriting blog is here) and made the second verse bass and drums only.

A word about the chorus: one of my favorite musical games is to see how much you can get harmonically out of one note. For example, how many chords can you fit around a given G in the bass? This is an excellent exercise if you’re stumped on how to proceed in a particular song. The chorus of this song was written that way– I hit a snag after devising a verse I was happy with. After an hour or so of fruitless frippery, I just played a bunch of chords in which G plays a major part and decided on Eb – F – G minor – E minor. Together with the bass line, they sounded interesting to me.

Incidentally, a lot of the chordal leaps in earlier Detholz! material was mostly the result of this compositional technique.

Anyway, before we get so heady we float away, I’ll leave you here. What do you think? Include on the album? Play live? Or, like last week, off with it’s head?

Tune in next week for another new demo!



Beast on the sofa
Pushing that needle

I took a harder look and
A mountain of body parts

I called his girlfriend but she’s not around
She took the early train
I called the cops but then they faded away
Under a donut sun

Unwrap a processed pie
And say whatever’s convenient:

I’m half alive and
Suburban, suburban!
You’re convenience

Blood in the kitchen
Boiling like Ramen

I took a softer look and
Pushing that needle

You call your friends but they are not allowed
To answer from the hole
You call your friends but they have faded away
Under a plastic clock

Wrap up your rubber tie
And say whatever’s convenient:

I know I’ve tried but
Suburban, suburban!
You’re convenience

I’m never gonna die ’cause
Don’t leave me outside
Suburban, suburban!
You’re convenience