Before anything, I want to send a huge thank you to everyone who's bought the albums. I never dreamed that my songs would be making people around the world dance and move and rock out. You guys are the best. Thank you so much for your support.
Several folks have asked why I chose spoken word for several of the songs on Circumnavigator. The reasons are numerous, both artistic and practical.
I've been a fan of the genre since first hearing the Golden Palominos album Dead Inside back in 1996. I bought the album in downtown Miami. As I walked from the store back to my college class, I put on the first song "Victim" and let Nicole Blackman's words creep into my headset over a background of heavy ambient tones. It was a hot, thickly humid Miami day, but by the time I'd made the trip I was chilled to the bone - goosebumps and all. The pictures her words had painted had sent my mind awry.
I listened to that album over and over, all the while seeking other bands which used the technique in their music. I learned that Nicole Blackman had also done work with KMFDM - the song "Dogma" off of the album Xtort. The industrial band Kidney Thieves uses it on several of their CDs as well. I also stumbled upon one of the greats in the genre, the band Recoil, a long-running project by Alan Wilder (formerly of Depeche Mode) where he features many spoken word artists performing pieces over instrumentals he creates.
There's some great - and rather screwed up - stories being told out there. I'll attach several examples at the bottom of this note.
I find that sometimes songwriters get too wrapped up in the melody of a song and use the lyrics more as a prop for a wonderful melody. There are many songs out there that have great, catchy hooks, earworms that'll get stuck in your head for days... but when you look closely at what you've been singing in the shower, the words themselves fall a little flat. I love the songs just the same, but sometimes I wish there was a greater emphasis on lyric creation.
I guess it comes from my visual arts and writing background. I don't want to be told how someone feels. I want to be shown it.
Part of that is choosing words with a visual impact. Using the song "Captain Morena" as an example, the titular character's feelings could have been expressed lyrically via, "She feels so much pain inside / Burnt by his lies / She'll never back down / Her rage knows no bounds / And he'll be paying tonight." Sure, it conveys her anger. But what I get from that is a generic feeling. Whereas a broader approach works for more popular music - as more people can relate to it - it's a compromise. I wanted to paint a specific character in a specific place performing specific actions that showed her feelings, rather than just telling me what they were.
Also, spoken word puts the focus on the words themselves and their delivery, as opposed to masking them with a melody. When all you have are the words, they have to stand tall on their own. That's a challenge. I filled up notebook page after Word document developing the lyrics for the songs until I felt they were exactly what I wanted to say.
there are the practical reasons. This album contains the first vocal tracks I've recorded in over ten years. Prior to that, I'd recorded exactly one vocal song: the original - and far different - version of "In Your Sleep". It took a lot for me to say, "Okay, these new songs, they need some vocals on them." I don't have any vocal training whatsoever, so it's been a heck of a learning curve to make my voice do what I wanted it to do. I had all these ideas running in my head for Circumnavigator, but for many of them the only way I could physically execute them was via spoken word. As I said, I'm a fan of the genre anyway, so my limitations actually fit in with my tastes.
I wanted to create something that hadn't already been done in the vast and eclectic world of steampunk music. I know a few artists have dabbled with it - for instance, Abney Park's "Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll" has a short spoken word segment - but I haven't seen anyone create entire songs built on the format.
Well, I hope that answers the question as to how I arrived at that decision.
I'd love to hear your opinions on both the format and my execution of it.
Escape the Clouds
Examples of the spoken word genre: