Whenever I started feeling down in the dumps about taking so long to finish Earwig's new album "Pause For The Jets", I would just think of poor old Axl Rose. It was oddly comforting to imagine our shared turmoil and realize what he must've gone through making the incredibly long-delayed Guns & Roses album Chinese Democracy. Sure, I think that Axl is a egotistical bedlamite, but I’ve never been one to call the kettle black. Making that record took for-freaking-ever and he almost destroyed himself in the process (not to mention his band), but after all was said and done, Axl was simply intent on making the best fucking rock album ever.
So yeah, I can relate.
To complete an artistic endeavor of such impossible scope and grandiose intensity you'd have to be driven, focused and a little bit foolish (actually, a lot foolish). Most of all, you have to believe in yourself. To let even a shred of self-doubt cloud your vision would surely mean death and there's no room for that. When Axl sings "All things are possible/ I am unstoppable" I feel like that's a sentiment I can get behind. So it's no surprise that his sprawling, unhinged, soundtrack to Axl's ego and Earwig's new record have plenty of similarities.
Earwig's first recording session for Pause For The Jets took place in a suburban Columbus basement in 2013. Since then I've slavishly fixated on the smallest details of every track, often running songs into the ground and starting over and re-recording from scratch. It's been a punishing process and it's taken a toll on my psyche. I'm fairly certain that if I could get away with it, I'd be sporting wicked corn-rows and wearing sunglasses 24/7. I'm exhausted and I want some nachos.
Axl went through 8 guitarists and countless band members while recording Chinese Democracy. Earwig changed drummers during the making of the album and added a singer. Not bad. Axl used at least 14 studios and several producers. We recorded with 3 different people... in a basement, in my garage, in an old house and in the hallway outside of a dentists office. One song was even recorded on an iPhone at our rehearsal space. Axl's record had celebrity guests (hello, Lydia Loveless!). Chinese Democracy took 15 years and 13 million dollars to complete. When you look at it that way I'd say taking 3 years to finish our album is pretty understandable. Judicious even. At one point, in a cheeky, promotional aside, Dr. Pepper promised to give a free soda to "everyone in America" to celebrate the release of Axl's record if it ever came out. It might be my one big regret that they didn't make a similar pledge for long-suffering Earwig fans. That would've been cool. I actually signed up for the reward but never got my free coupon for a soda. Fuck 'em. When Earwig's album comes out, come see me and I'll buy you a can.
Pause For The Jets is a fantastic science fiction rock opera and a real life tale of reckless self-indulgence. In the writing and recording I left no room for reason or restraint. To that end I was uncompromising ...and a little nutty. I wanted it to be perfect and true and I hope we didn’t get too lost.
We took faulty four-track demos of my very first recording of a song and forced the drummer play along to them, just to get the feel right. It didn't always work, but when it did it was more than worth the pain (the drummer's pain, not mine). I waited for a full moon and stayed up past midnight just to record a vocal during the witching hour. I recorded tornado sirens and mixed them with strings to create tension. I blended the sound of a jet taking off with my guitar to get the desired effect. I ran my Telecaster through an old film projector and plugged it straight into my laptop in the hopes of achieving a sound that no other guitarist had made before. I lifted snare sounds from New Order records, recorded samples from Kate Bush, The Smiths and N.W.A. and weaved them into the songs. I even used my phone to record bits of old science fiction movies, dumped them into the recording sessions and digitally twisted them to help tell the story. I scripted dialog for the characters in the songs and had the band members read their parts. I even translated some bits into Japanese and once we read them, now I can't even remember what they say. I was lucky that everyone in the band never hesitated in pushing these songs to the limit. Along the way, I re-discovered how talented and crazy they each are. They were always game for whatever whacky idea I threw at them. Everyone involved with the recording left their undeniable sound on the finished tracks. It's a true collaboration of the very best kind. When we started mixing, I went deep. I nearly drove the producer crazy with ridiculous, lengthy detailed notes that referenced UFOs as well as my own alien DNA. I gave him relentless instructions to raise and lower certain instruments and elements in the mix by +\- .3db! (God bless my producer Tom Boyer, he injected his own kinda crazy, even put a howler monkey on one song and I loved it). And all along, I knew that you were waiting patiently for us to just finish the damn record. Well, we signed off on the final-final-mixes last night and handed them off to the mastering engineer for final glossing.
Listening to the playback now, I think we did it. This feels like a sincere, rocking and fully realized Earwig album. It might not quite be the guitar-rock record that you’d expect but I feel like we succeeded in creating something beautiful, lasting and also in moving forward as a band. Thank you very much for taking the time to be a part of it. It means more than you could know.
I hope that Pause For The Jets is as dazzling as we want it to be...but please, don't hate me because I'm beautiful. All I ever really wanted in life is to play lead guitar for the Rock-afire Explosion. And to be honest Pause For The Jets has way more in common with Purple Rain. Seriously, I have a spreadsheet. Don't get me started.
Take the time to enjoy your life and remember to pause for the jets,