In October of 1998 I decided I wanted to learn guitar. This is just the sort of thing a lovelorn college sophomore does. My dad taught me your basic chords and I banged away night and day on his cheap and chintzy (sorry, Dad) guitar – the stings were like razor wire. It stung and I bled, but I forged my calluses with honest sweat. That Christmas my parents, recognizing an abnormal dedication I suppose, rewarded me with a guitar of my very own, a far less painful Takamine Jasmine that I still write most of my songs on to this day. You’ll hear it all over these recordings.
By March of 1999 I had written 50 songs. I much preferred to write songs than learn covers. I had no patience for covers. This is not the sort of thing a lovelorn college sophomore should do. Had I been smart I would have learned all the Dave Matthews songs the pretty girls on campus were requesting (remember, this is 1999), instead of bombarding poor strangers with “another original composition.” Whatever, I was enjoying myself and, more importantly, the songs were getting better by the week.
I had two towering influences in those early days: David Bowie and Andy Partridge of XTC. Indeed, hearing Partridge’s ‘Snowman’ from their superb ‘English Settlement’ LP was THE MOMENT that made me want to be a songwriter in the first place. I still consider what I do to be a direct combination of Bowie’s emotive ear-twisting swing and Partridge’s geometrically rhythmic braininess. For what that’s worth.
I had a sheet of printer paper and whenever I wrote a new song I would write the title onto the sheet. By the time I had filled the sheet up I thought it might be time to commit some of these numbers to tape before I forgot them. So in the Summer of 2000 I recorded my first cassette on a faulty clock radio in our basement. The tape ran too fast, causing my voice to sound an octave higher than normal, much like those amusing “Chipmunks” one hears about in the trade papers. It’s a cute little set of songs, and you’ll hear some of it (though by no means all, oh God no) as this project progresses.
By this point I thought I may be onto something, a unique musical voice all my own, and I devoted more and more of my time and energy to the craft. With each new set of songs I would challenge myself to learn a new chord, or new technique, or work in a riff into it. I remember the day I finally “got” bar chords as I strummed around to Super Furry Animals’ ‘Demons’ from their ‘Radiator’ LP. That was a big day. Songs spilled out of me at a furious pace, and as they did so I found I was forgetting earlier songs I had written. I would look at that sheet of printer paper, and scratch my head at certain titles. This would not do. I needed to record more regularly.
For my birthday in January of 2001, my wonderful parents gifted me with my first 4-track unit, a Tascam Porta 02 Ministudio. To say it changed my life would be both overly Romantic and entirely true. That unit became my workshop and artistic focal point for years to come. I would pour my heart and soul into that wee machine, all the while experimenting with recording techniques, guitar and vocal effects, percussion, and especially multi-tracking, a concept which struck me as the best kind of puzzle. Of course, those early recordings are rough- poorly recorded (I was too close to the mic), poorly performed (I was afraid to sing too loud at the start) and often poorly conceived (entire cassettes of improvised “jams”? No thank you.)
But I got better. At all of it. And the increasingly more listenable recordings became a sort of musical diary, tracking the ups and downs of the next decade plus of my life. As of November 2013 I have 92 cassette tapes in a metal suitcase, totaling some 1,084 songs. Sure, I’ve formed bands, recorded “legitimate” studio albums, but my best stuff, the most truthful art I’ve ever made is on these tapes. And the VAST, VAST majority of it has never been heard by anyone but me.
This site is devoted to the best of those tapes. 37 choice musical releases culled from 13 years of compulsive artistic outpouring.