The Count

I feel like Edmund Dantes: locked behind iron bars, stuck in a cell high above the city, wind-whipped and exhausted.

After four hours of mixing “Angels In The Atmosphere” last night, my headphones were crushing my glasses into my temples like a medieval torture device. Still, vengeance will be mine when I unleash this EP on an unwitting populace.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of reading about the making of The Desert Star EP,” more, perhaps, than I’m getting tired of writing about it (or living it!). But the truth is, MTV News notwithstanding, it’s all I’ve been doing.

I got home around 7:30 last night, sat down in front of Access Hollywood, and restrung my Martin. After nearly twenty years of playing guitar, it still takes me nearly a half hour of awkward fumbling to get it playable again. Rediculous. And annoying.

Upstairs, I spent nearly two hours tracking and mixing vocals for “Angels.” One might wonder exactly how that could be. Well, it’s not so much a question of hitting the notes. I’m fine there. It’s more about getting the sentiment right. Do I whisper more? Growl more? Am I too throaty? Too fey? Too lispy? And when I do manage to get a good take, odds are it’s not good straight through. So I spend another two hours trying to edit together various takes. But the levels are variable, or the performance is varied, or I stood too far from the mic, or… you get the idea. I shouted out loud more than once.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I want this record to sound like “Out Of Time,” or at least “Heartbreaker.” This from the guy who was just planning to write and record a few solo acoustic songs. This from the guy who thought it would be a breezy, lo-fi, warts-and-all recording. Now, all of a sudden, it has to be Grammy worthy.

Ah, The Obsessive Compulsive.

I took a break around ten o’clock to call Abbi (who’s kind of wondering where I disappeared to), and order some dinner. I watched “High Fidelity” (“Which came first? The music? Or the misery?”), relished a turkey burger deluxe, then stumbled back up my spiral staircase into the warm glow of my G4 and flickering candles. By midnight, I could scarcely keep my eyes open for the soul-crushing headache.

I keep thinking about Jesus’ forty days and forty nights of trial in the desert. Not because I’m all that familiar with The Bible. I’m not. Honestly, my memory of that story is formed primarily from “The Last Temptation Of Christ” which my mom (a progressive Catholic with a masters degree in theology) took me to see when I was a teenager. Plus, she often referred to “the dark night of the soul.” My weekend in Palm Springs wasn’t so much a dark night, but I was aware that I was — and still am — teetering on the edge of one.

Hence “Flirting With Disaster” (“You’re flirting with disaster/You’re always on the run/Your heart is beating faster/On and on and on and on”), and hence the need to slow down, let the light in, and find the “Angels In The Atmosphere” (“Where the sky opens up when they’re near/And the air grows heavy with light/And you say, ‘Glory! I’m so alive!'”).

I listened to four of the five mixes on the subway this morning. For the most part, I was pleased. I’ve done a pretty good job, despite the late nights, the solitude, the madness, and the headaches. Best of all, it sounds arid, but lush. It sounds frenzied, but relaxed. It sounds dark, but getting brighter. It sounds like time in the desert, or the morning after a dark night of the soul. Which is the whole idea. And worth all the headaches.

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