Unconsciously, I must have known I was on the last rounds of "The vonHummer Hour." Naming the last album of material done for the series while in production "Abbey Damned" must have been related to "Abbey Road," the Beatles last album, deep down. But up top in my brain, I wasn't aware of the wheels coming off.
True enough, the bi-weekly deadline for the cable access show was getting really tough to meet. In the Summer of 2003, I looked around to realize I was short on new music videos. Short? I was out. I wasn't out of songs, of course. On any given day, I'm walking around with about 2 albums' worth of material to record. But that Summer, I didn't have anything recorded and that was a problem.
I buckled down right away and picked out seven songs. Most were songs that had been around awhile, but never gotten their shot at the big time. There's a definite queue to be in one of my albums, it seems. "Like Junior High" has been added in as a bonus track. That one wasn't finished until February of 2004 and non-released as a single then, so I figured, "Close e-damn-nough," and stuck on this album.
"Abbey Damned" would follow pretty much the same process that "Sieve & Moor"—the previous non-release—had followed: record the instruments on my Tascam cassette 4-track at home, in the living room of 4020 SE 10th Ave, and then go into Portland's legendary studio, "Jackpot Recording," to record vocals and mix.
At least I'm pretty sure that's how it was done. Gemini that I am, one twin insists that's how it went and the other says, "No, you'd bought the condenser mic and preamp by then and didn't want to un-ass the money for a studio when it could sound just as good at home."
Well, it doesn't really matter. "Abbey Damned" is still a great record to me. It's got a very full, unique sound—akin only to "Sieve & Moor" before it—and is very upbeat, all in all, arranged with a standard bass and drums (courtesy of my Zoom Rhythm Trak RT-123, still in use, btw, and heard most recently on "Black & Orange,) the drone bass (the then NEW Danelectro Longhorn), and a high guitar (probably the Eko hollowbody.)
I must have really been in The Vortex while recording these tracks, because I remember almost nothing of doing it. I recall they were done in the daytime...I remember lots of time programming the drum and bass tracks...The guitars fell right in line, I seem to recall...Vocals were a breeze. I'm thinking it took maybe a week and half to nail this one. My son was probably away for the Summer, if that's so.
As a collective work, it's a series of portraits. Every song is me trying some other persona on for size as I write their song. "Cold Call," is the song that comes closest to being my own experience, the lyrics of which were written during a dark sales-related chapter of my life. Happily "Like Junior High" fits right in as well, another persona tune.
Thematically, it's about the lies we tell ourselves on the way to learning to be real. Approval seeking ("Their Way,") bitterness masked as gratitude ("One Paycheck Away,") bitterness masked as concern ("Cry in Vain,") judgementality as a quest for justice ("Liberal Blues,") hiding behind illness ("My Happy Pills,") the substitution of ambition for happiness ("Cold Call,") sermonizing as wisdom ("Everyone Loves the Political Singersongwriter,") and narcissism mistaken for love ("Like Junior High") all add up on this album to something somewhere for somebody, I'm sure.
released August 1, 2003
vonHummer: drums, bass, drone bass, high guitar drone, vocals.