I called this collection of songs—an "album" to my 70s way of thinking—"6Noons," because it was "six new ones." This was more of my growing tradition of naming my albums quantitively instead of qualitatively, perhaps so as not to jinx myself artistically.
The 12 songs from the previous Summer's album, "Leftoverwhelming," would be gone soon, devoured by the 2 or 3 song appetite of my bi-weekly cable access series, "The vonHummer Hour," and I knew it was high time to do some more recording. It was Fall of 2002, and I was also aware that I'd need a new Christmas song for the Christmas episode.
I hadn't recorded much of anything since Spring, and being extremely short on funds, my musical equipment inventory was severely depleted. I didn't have a drum machine of any kind, and the drum guitar I'd invented and used on everything with percussion so far was pretty much shot. I decided to find a drummer.
Always love having a drummer, but I can't usually support one. At the time, I was living in a 2-room fourplex, and by no means would there be toleration for a live drummer by the neighbors. My bass was trouble enough.
I don't remember how I came into contact with Eric Olsen. Did I place an ad? Did he? Was he a fan who wrote in? I just don't recall. He was living in Troutdale at the time, not far from the TV studio, MCTV, where I produced the cable series. He didn't have a car, nor a job. He did have a girlfriend. And a drum set. Not a good one. He lived in an extremely ramshackle apartment with lots of little caged animals. What were they? Lizards? Rats? Ferrets? Or maybe it was just a huge annoying dog?
He was young. 20 maybe. Just out on his own, and not doing very well at it, to my estimation. Seemed happy enough, though. This was during the big post-911 depression, though, so nobody was doing all that well, economically speaking.
I surely wasn't either.
He was a great drummer, though. Certainly in the top 3 I've ever been acquainted with. And you can hear it all over "6 Noons." Expressive. Good timing. Subtle. A true master. And what you hear on this album is the only time we ever played together. No rehearsals. Nothing. Just, played it a couple times and recorded it.
Where to record was the big dilemma. My place was no good. His was worse. No money for a studio. Then it hit me: record it at the TV station. Not in the studio, I couldn't get a big enough block of time. Instead, I booked the conference room. That also gave me plenty of access to microphones and stands, which allowed me to mic his drums pretty well. I used my good old Tascam 4 Track Cassette recorder, and it may be that I spread the drums and bass in stereo on 2 tracks, leaving 2 open for vocals.
We got together on a weeknight in early November of 2002. Drove him and his drums to the studio. Set up. Recorded six songs, his drums and my bass only, and packed up. I remember things going really smoothly.
I kept my playing very simple. I didn't try anything fancy, probably because I was afraid of making flubs that might slow us down, limiting how many songs we could get done. I figured I'd add the vocals later. At that time, I usually doubled my vocals to make up for not having very good vocal mics.
As I listened back the next day, I didn't much like what I'd played. Too simple. Wouldn't stand on its own. For fun, I played a high guitar along with the tracks. Wow! The sound was superb. I committed then to adding guitar tracks to the six new ones.
To my surprise, I came up with the most beautiful, kick-ass riffs ever. The descending riff for "Gone for the Day?" Invented itself. "Impatience?" Impossible. I'd never played that good before. After a day or so of putting down guitar tracks, I couldn't believe it. It was like a recording by someone else. When had I learned to play that well?
Another day of adding vocals and it was done. And in plenty of time to use "Xmas'd Up Again" in the Christmas Episode, "I Saw Daddy Cursing Santa Claus." While taping that episode, I even brought Eric in to lip synch drums in the video of the song. He wore some eyeball specs and was a very good sport about it.
I was hoping to start playing live shows with him, and do some more recording but then...He kind of faded away. Flaked off, perhaps. It was weird. He was this straight born again Christian vegetarian when I met him. Then, within a couple months' time, he was a pothead with shady friends, a disconnected phone, and just...gone.
But what a gift he left behind in "6Noons!" Every one of these songs (except "Xmas'd Up Again") was in the top 20 most-downloaded songs from vonHummer.com
, with "Blame it on the Aliens," "Gone for the Day," "Impatience," and "Trip, Stagger & Stumble" in the top 10! (I love my ersatz-Billboard rating system, by the way, don't you? Hey, it's better than nothing.)
Thematically, it's another album of character sketches: character living lives of illusion, and/or not living up to what they'd hoped. "Blame it on the Aliens" is the portrait of an active—and successful—infidelity con. "Crawl Like an Eagle" seems to be the preaching of corrupt dogma, that is, indoctrination. "Gone for the Day," sung by someone who's faithfully serving a corrupt acquaintance. "Impatience" is the confession of a toxic lover who knows better but can't do better. "Trip Stagger & Stumble" is infatuation in the face of self-hate. "Xmas'd Up Again" is a self-destructive, self-medicated tear through the Holidays, and the Holiday terminologies.
Not a very confessional album, as singer-songwritering goes. I don't think that really kicks in for me until "Indiscreet Where You Live," a good 3 years beyond this point. But there's almost certainly projection, and that ought to be enough to win this work the laurels of Authenticity, which is the only merit available in rock criticism, it seems.
Note about the cover: that's a scan of the actual CD I downloaded and labeled by hand with a Sharpie. The eyeball specs were added later, in place of the Maxell logo, of course. In this age of mp3's, it seems quaint to remember having to label a CD, eh? Anyhow, I thought that, given the offhand creation and recording, that my offhand labeling would make a good cover.