Song Dissection #7: Blue Alice

Photo Credit: LostFish

Clip of the Blue Alice:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/ayriaheartsforbulletstrack08.mp3[/podcast]

Interesting Tid Bits about this song

1. This is the song that got me an “explicit” warning for the Hearts For Bullets CD since it has swearing in it.  I thought this was a GOOD use of the “F” bomb.

2. This song was a collaboration and is the only song on Hearts For Bullets that I didn’t do the majority of programming and writing for.

3. I occasionally get tagged as “rap” on some sites. I think it’s because of this song, and The Gun Song.  Despite the fact that I hate when people try and categorize my genre of music, I DID think it was very entertaining to be called a rapper!

4. The tempo of this song is 101 BPM.  Which is such an awesome speed that’s rarely done these days.  This tempo used to be more common in Industrial (think Nitzer Ebb’s Belief album and NIN songs) but with club music that’s taken over, DJ’s and/or artists seem to think that if a song goes under 130 BPM, they might explode… or something.

5. The original working title for this song was “I look better from the floor”.

6. The lyrics for this song were inspired by a movie I saw and it was NOT Alice In Wonderland

7. This was the very last of all songs to be finished in production for Hearts For Bullets around mid June 2008.  After which, I had a glass of red wine to celebrate!

The Dissection:

This song is a collaboration between me and my amazing friend Jeremy Pfohl who happens to run Storming The Base in Toronto.  I actually love collaborating with other people. Some amazing vocal ideas have come out of collaborations since I’m free to concentrate just on the vocals which has always been my number one passion. Jeremy had started writing this loop that eventually became the first verse of “Blue Alice”.  He played it for me, and I thought the synths were just amazing, and it had such a cool groove and such a rawness to it, that I asked him to pass the loop on to me so I could play around with ideas since he tends to just start loops just for fun.  I then recorded vocals over top of it, that ended up staying in the sonng as the first verse.  I had started chanting about fairy tales through a distortion effect, and he loved it so we decided to develop it further and complete it as a full song.

The Chorus

Writing the chorus came next but we found it really difficult to transition into something big and powerful.  Both the music and the vocals in our first draft, neither of us liked completely. The first draft of the song, I had kept chanting in the chorus but it really needed some vocal melody to change the chorus completely.  Then one day, the “Hey You Black and Blue” came to me and it was a line that instantly stuck in my head and forced Jeremy to program percussion around that new idea. It’s like everything clicked once a powerful chorus was created.

The Bridge

Jeremy  ended up working on a bridge “synth solo” that comes in after the lyrics: “Little Pig Little Pig Put Her Down!” that  he was having so much fun with, it would have gone on for another 5 minutes if it were up to him.  But me, usually forgetting to take a pause in a song to STOP singing for a bit, found the synths leading a nice refreshing break and change.  And that synth solo part is so ridiculously sick! Seb enhanced it in production by adding breaks, and adding really amazing percussion in that part and in the chorus.  Here is the bridge synth solo in all it’s glory:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-BlueAlice-Bridge-produced.mp3[/podcast]This week  I’m changing things up again, instead of isolating the raw vocals, I wanted to isolate the raw synths before production so you can admire their sick beauty and what they added to this song:

Here’s the Verse Synth:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Verse-Synth-Solo.mp3[/podcast]2 Chorus Synths that layer together for a thick sound:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Chorus-Synth-Solo-1.mp3[/podcast] [podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Chorus-Synth-Solo-2.mp3[/podcast]Finally the Bridge Synth “solo”!

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Bridge-Sick-Synth.mp3[/podcast]

The Lyrics:  This Is One F*cked Up Fairy Tale..

The song is whimsical with dark fairy tale concepts running throughout in a sick and twisted, somewhat modernized way.  Here are the lyrics:

I hope I’m dreaming because this can’t be awake
I hope I’m dead just for my sake
Who knew all this would come from a dirty gun
Son of a Bitch who thought he was a cowboy
The mad hatter Bashes your face again
Look into his eyes to see where evil lives
Bullet through window and down the rabbit hole
This is one f*cked up fairy tale

Hey You! Black and blue
Watch out, you’ll end up like Alice
Hey You! Black and blue
Watch out, don’t end up like Alice

You’ll get what’s coming, you and your children
The wicked witch has OD’ed on pills again
And the Dragon, lights up a cigarette
He’s blowing smoke right into your face again
It’s off with her head
Her snakes are seething
The big bad wolf is rabid and teething
Bullets through windows and down the rabbit hole
This is one f*cked up fairy tale

Little Pig little pig put her down
Slapped around choked and drown

I was inspired to start writing the lyrics to this song after watching a movie called “Running Scared” directed by Wayne Kramer. It’s not uncommon that a book, an article, a show, the news, or a movie sparks my mind to start writing lyrics. It doesn’t mean the whole song is completely about this movie, it just started my imagination down this dark fairy tale lyrical path.  This movie is a bloody, violent, cowboy, mob, fairy tale with a pretty gruesome UV lit hockey torture scene like no one has done before! It had all of these characters throughout the story that were modernized version of classic Grimm Fairy Tale characters. I debated explaining here which parts specifically from this movie I used in my lyrics, but if you’re that interested, you can just watch the film yourself and try and figure it all out. I’m not saying it’s the best movie ever, it’s quite over the top, a strange plot and violent, but you might enjoy that ;)

Don’t End Up Like Alice: The rest of the lyrics, I took from other favourite childhood stories, like Alice In Wonderland of course, which became the premise of the chorus and tied the whole song together, matching the tone of the verses by portraying a bit of a battered Alice who ends up black and blue and slapped around. I was already writting these dark lyrics, so there was no turning back and I created this image of an abused Alice that you have to be careful not to end up like.  A bit unnerving, but striking.

I recently purchased this Alice in Wonderland book and was thrilled with the illustrations in this version done by Camille Rose Garcia.  They are so wonderfully creepy!

Alice In Wonderland Cover

The Little Pig reference was obviously a nod to the childhood nursery rhymes only mutilated to be about the pigs being nasty masochists, beating and choking Alice.  The “Off with her head, Snakes are seething” is a reference to Greek Mythology’s Medusa, but also tying it in with the Queen Of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland, linking the fabled beheading of Medusa with the Red Queen’s constant cry of ‘off with their heads!”.   Medusa is one of my favourite “villains” in stories.. although, arguably, not a villain at all, but that’s another discussion..

I also really liked the anachronistic images of the characters.  Like the wicked witch overdosing on pills. Taking a fantasy character and giving her more modern qualities.  Same with the image of the dragon, except in his case, he’s also a creature not a person, so having those modern qualities is even stranger.  Instead of breathing fire, he takes a drag of a cigarette and blows the smoke into your face.  Almost more insulting since you know he can breath fire, but is instead taunting you.  And that being both anachronistic and anthropomorphic (yes, I looked that word up, I learned something from this blog too!) was interesting to me.

To end the disscetion, I like sharing interesting youtube videos I stumble accross!  This one is a slide show created by fearandloathinggirl,  it uses a lot of Alice Pictures that I’ve never seen before!

Have a great week! I’m not going to post a new dissection this Friday and we’ll see how crazy things get, but this might be the last one before the upcoming tour. I will instead be tour blogging from the road! The Song Dissections will resume when I’m back of course! In the meantime, tell me what your favourite fairy tale, fairytale related movie, or childhood fable is?

xo
Jenn

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible
Analog Trash
Suck It Up
Insect Calm

If you’ve enjoyed reading this and wish to own this song and want to support me directly, please either check out my shop (I personally ship & sign anything you want), or you can purchase the mp3 of Blue Alice from iTunes for a mere dollar:

Song Dissection #4: Analog Trash

Analog Trash - Header

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor

Lyrics:

I’ve got a secret
I’ve been watching you
I know you’re damaged
But I still want you
You’re analog trash
When life is digital
But I prefer you
I think you’re beautiful

Pull back realign
We are flawed by design
Unplug just for fun
Stop before we hurt someone
Standard Uniform
Corporate life has gone too far
Excess Commodity
I want you just for me

This little secret
Gives me something to do
My new obsession
To be like you
You’re analog trash
When life is digital
But I prefer this
unreplicatable

Come On, It’s not what you think
Come On, Just come away with me
Come On, There’s so much more to this
Come On, That life you will not miss

The Dissection:
I will make a big statement in saying this is my favourite song off of the “Hearts For Bullets” CD. Although, choosing a favourite song is like choosing a favourite amongst your children I’d assume. I personally felt that this song achieved a light, sexy, fun feeling while still having some darker, grittier elements to it. It combined so many influences and elements of electro that I love, that it became my favourite, but again, that changes monthly depending on my mood. ;)

For me, the word analog makes me specifically think of analog synthesizers! Analog synths have qualities that can’t quite be replicated by digital, and lyrically, this song takes the traits of any analog device, and uses these traits to describe an individual, mainly in the line repeated in the verses: “you’re analog trash, when life is digital. But I prefer this, unreplicatable”.

Here’s a cute picture I found online of “Analog Trash”:
analog trash pic
photo credit: “Analog Retirement” form busted tees

I knew from the beginning I wanted to call this song “Analog Trash”. The biggest decision I had regarding this song was the spelling of the title! In Canada and the UK, it’s actually spelled “Analogue” but I thought the American spelling for “Analog” looked slicker so I, for a moment, abandoned my Canadian roots and went with the Americanization of the word! It’s funny because I was playing a show in Manchester, UK, in December 2009 where I found out that they named their regular club night after my song. The night is called “Analogue Trash” and it made me feel guilty seeing the spelling like that ;)

THE VOCALS: I was so very happy with the vocals of this song. The melodies were simple, sweet and fun. When I sing this song, it actually feels light and sexy to do so. I also felt the vocals had a sophistication and maturity that maybe I hadn’t experimented with in the past, especially how the chorus vocals seem to swell and drag from one phrasing to the next if that makes sense? I love diversity. It’s the key to who I am and what I do. I really hate writing the same song over and over, so I TRY my best not to. Let me tell you though, Its getting tougher after 3 releases.

THE LYRICS: I admit, it’s a bit of a mash of ideas and ends up being kind of abstract, especially in the chorus where each line is more of a statement and could stand on it’s own rather than tell a story. The verses are sung as a secret love song that comes off a bit stalker-esque “I’ve been watching you”. There are some lyrics relating back to the analog vs. digital concept. Being “flawed by design” is a trait of analog that I’ve related to individuals as well. My statement on how our corporate lives and craving for commodity hinders our relationships and life balance. Personally, I was feeling overworked at the time, things were out of whack, and I was trying to find balance while I was working on a career, doing music, and still trying to have a life somehow. I think having the life suffered the most. I wanted my world to “Unplug, just for fun” and I wanted to convince the world around me there had to be more to all this. Again, they are not all completely straightforward lyrics, but they seemed to all flow nicely together while capturing what I was feeling at the time: The bridge just lets loose with: “Come on, just come away with me, come on, there’s so much more to this, Come on, that life you will not miss”.

Here’s another lyric brainstorming mess of purple! This was the messiest song brainstorming I think I’ve ever done so naturally, I wanted to share it! The funny thing is, if you follow the numbers, it’s how the first verse turned out (except for number one happening twice… Ah, beautiful creative chaos!) If you can follow this at all, you should get a prize:

Purple Mess of Lyrics for Analog Trash

Purple Mess of Lyrics for Analog Trash

THE MUSIC & PRODUCTION:
The music and melodies came to me fairly easily which is not always the case as you’ve seen in a few of the previous dissections where I’ve discussed how some songs need demo after demo, drafted 10 times until it feels right. This song started so simple with just two synth lines going through my analog pattern sequencers in Reason software, a lead and a bass, and what you may notice in this song, is that the bass melody actually never changes through the entire song, maybe not a great song structure trait on my part, but for this song, it really works. To change it up, other synth layers and different percussion come in so the verse and chorus sound different. I wanted the song to stay fairly sparsely programmed, acheiving an overall 80′s-electro feel to it. Here’s my first demo loop of the music that started with the lead and bass synth and introduced a few other layers this loop is the brainstorming so I could start writing and structuring the song from here.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Demo-Loop.mp3[/podcast]

My producer, Seb, said this was one of his favourites off the album (between this, and the title track “Hearts For Bullets”). I thought “Analog Trash” turned out so slick. All of the elements pop out at you since there’s not a lot of clutter with only a few layers of music going on at any one time. Also, this song sounds amazing on a dance floor! Pointing out my three favourite contributions by Seb to this song in production: the lead synth that comes in at the one minute mark sounds so gritty, draggy, and added so much to the song, this song also had some of the most amazingly clear vocal production I’ve heard on my voice (listen to it in head phones, the chorus is pure ear candy!), and lastly, the percussion, specifically, those beautiful snares! I’m a total snare freak!! Our biggest heated discussions during production on this whole CD were the snares. I love really loud snares that are short explosive bursts that just punch you in the face. If you listen to this entire CD, you might (NOW) notice how loud and clear the snares are on almost every song… or maybe it’s just me. I think I actually drove Seb crazy with how picky I was. No matter what volume he was going to put the snare, he did it a few DB louder to not have to hear me complain ;)

This clip is for you guys who wanted me to continue sharing the raw vocals, the first clip is the first verse and chorus. Notice there are 2 layers of vocals that come in for the chorus? Those are 2 different vocal recordings which, when layered together create a true “natural chorus” effect. It’s used in a lot of Ayria songs as it ends up sounding so sweet! You’re more likely to have imperfections when doing a chorus this way, when the vocals aren’t sung exactly the same, which they can’t possibly be, but I tend to like some of the little imperfections. It gives it character.. unreplicatable.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Raw-Vocals.mp3[/podcast]

This second clip is the same vocals in the final produced version of the song:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Produced-Clip.mp3[/podcast]

I wanted to share two of my favourite videos of us playing this song live that I’ve come accross:

First it at The Knitting Factory in Los Angeles on October 13, 2008. The crowd was so energetic in true L.A. style! I was blown away at the crowd’s reaction in this clip because, I have to point out, Hearts for Bullets had JUST been released, out less than a month, but it seems like it’s an old crowd favourite! The sound quality, as for most of the live videos, isn’t the best, and I get kind of out of breath, but it’s still cool to see. The very end of this video, someone screams so loud and long. It’s ridiculous and I love when crowds are having this much fun (thanks to twistedgraven who posted this video!)

This is November 29, 2008 in the Outback Lodge in Charlottesville, VA. A small and intimate show with a fun crowd. I love it!

(Thanks CompTechMike for posting the video!)

If you don’t own this song, don’t let the guilt consume you! Spend that dollar on iTunes! Or visit my web shop where I personally sign and send you stuff:

I had to start numbering the dissections so that new readers know how far we’ve come and so I can keep track! I’m working on something special for the week of the the 6th dissection which will mean we are pretty much at the half way point in dissecting “Hearts For Bullets”. I also think next week’s dissection will be presented really differently! I found a gem in my archives to share that’s never been seen before, plus I want to shake things up. Some people have asked about possibly continuing on and dissecting a few songs from “Flicker” and “Debris” this is a possibility since I’m having a lot of fun working on these but I won’t promise anything at this point. I have a feeling the next few months are going to get pretty busy with the upcoming U.S. tour and I want to do some tour blogging from the road too!

Have a great weekend! I’ll be celebrating my Birthday this Sunday and I want to ask you for a present: I’d love for you to please share my music with some one who hasn’t yet heard it, or post a link to my web site, or facebook users, please click that little “share” button down on the bottom left corner of the Ayria page. That gift from you, helping to spread my music, would be so much appreciated by me! I promise to post pictures of my disgustingly pink fairytopia cake next week ;)
xoxo
Jenn

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible