Still Looking For The Answers

by 41POINT9

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41POINT9 Producer’s Notes:

The Bullet’s In The Barrel
This song was actually the third song written for the album. Like most of my songs it began as a set of lyrics. I remember that I had been listening to a lot of Kip Winger’s solo material at that time, particularly “Songs from the Ocean Floor” and his arrangement ideas were forefront in my mind. I was driving to a Sacramento suburb known as Elk Grove for work, when I came up with the idea of using ballistic terms to describe a breakup. I had wanted to write a song in the vein of “Punch and Judy” by Marillion for a really long time, but had never found quite the right vehicle for the idea. I quickly realized this theme might work. I remember coming up with the first few lines and had to keep repeating them over and over to myself in order not to forget until I could stop the car and write them down. Eventually I pulled over in a Walmart parking lot and quickly scribbled the first verse while sitting in my car. The rest of the lyrics followed shortly over the next day or so.

The idea of combining a Kip Winger-esque arrangement with Fish lyrics really intrigued me. A few days later I showed Kenny the song lyrics while in the studio. We started working on some ideas together and I showed him the songs that had inspired the idea. We started trying out some chord progressions but nothing really felt right, until we joked about this video that had been running round the ‘net regarding the overuse of the first half of Pachlabel’s Canon in D Minor and how many hit songs had been written using these exact chord intervals. I sarcastically joked, “I’d really like to have a hit song too so let’s just use those chords!”. When we stopped laughing, we realized, “Hey, this could work!” Using those chords, the rest of the song came together quickly. Now we just have to wait and see whether it becomes a hit or not…. Chuckle chuckle.

Kenny and I worked over a series of weekends to record the basic tracks. Due to the somber tone of the song I decided to use my six string fretless bass and give it some dark and slippery lines. Kenny layered track after track of thick guitars. Once we had built up a pretty good bed of ideas we sent it to Nick for him to work his magic on drums. His drumming on this song is for me one of the highlights of the album.

At this point, I wasn’t quite happy with the initial way the song started. So I sat down at the computer and started messing with Kenny’s guitar tracks (one of my favorite pastimes by the way)  and came up with the intro part using bits and pieces from the song. But there was missing still something. That is when I realized that we could put a bit of dialogue in the intro that would sound like a cheesy soap opera with a plot line similar to the song’s. All fired up for this idea, I enlisted the help of a good friend with a voice like a North Carolina version of Demi Moore (and yeah guys she’s cute too!) and Kenny to act out the parts. Amidst a lot of giggling and goofing off, I wrote some dialogue and the two acted the part of the quarreling couple. I remember Jennifer even punched Kenny a few times to “get into character” A great time was had by all…except perhaps for Kenny’s shoulder.

Next up was Brian’s vocal tracks. We sent him a mix of the song, the lyrics and wished him luck in trying to fit the lyrics to the music. I, for one, had no idea how he was going to do it. But as usual Brian rose to the challenge and with a bit of dept editing and shoehorning, delivered a brilliant vocal performance. We added a bit of icing on the cake with extra harmonies and the wedding vow’s section and the song was done.

Living In Hard Times was actually written when I was 17 years old and in high school. I had just read “The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck and had written a song about the time period. The song had languished in an old binder and had never really been given the chance to breathe. I decided to dust off the cobwebs on it and start developing it for the album. Kenny read the lyrics one day in the studio and really like the idea. I sang him the melody line I had written way back when and we pieced together a rough skeleton for the song.

At that point, Kenny told me about this idea that he had always wanted to try for a song intro. The idea was to use the cycle of fifths (a musical and mathematical concept) and playing only certain parts of the cycle work your way around the formula. Admittedly, I was very skeptical of the idea, as I know next to nothing about music theory and the whole idea sounded very cold and clinical to my mind. He told me to have faith and he would surprise me.

Well, two weeks later he did. Kenny had taken what I had presumed to be a cold, mathematical formula and developed it into one of the most beautiful, passionate and dynamic pieces of music I have ever been involved with. So what if the song had ballooned to almost 8 minutes in length. This was prog baby! Full speed ahead!

Once again, the basic tracks winged their way down to Southern California where at Casa D’Virgilio, amazing drum tracks were recorded. The song then sat for a while until Brian could make his way north to my studio to hear the song and lay some scratch vocals.

Right before Xmas 2009, Brian and his family came to visit my family up in the Sierras. After going out to a Cornish Christmas celebration and having a great time (and yes there may have been some alcohol involved), we came back to the studio and played with vocal ideas. Brian then took these ideas home and polished their performances and did the final vocal recording at his studio. We laid on some harmony tracks graciously recorded by Molly Roth and the track was complete. The result is the “opus” for the album. It came out much better than anything I had anticipated and I’m so glad this old song has finally seen the light of day.

Building Blocks was the second song recorded for the album. Interestingly, Kenny wasn’t even part of the band yet at this point. He was more of a “hired gun” really. Although by the end of the recording of this tune, his value as a guitar player and songwriting partner were self evident and an offer to join Brian and I was made. (thankfully, he said yes) The song was written back when I was 19 or so after a particularly confusing breakup. (ah ….young love) and borrows heavily from Marillion’s “Kayleigh”.. well lyrically at least. I just about wore that record out I listened to it so often. The song had gone through several arrangements over the years but it was never quite right The song features keyboard performances by an old friend Tom Wetzel, that I only recently discovered had past away. To the best of my knowledge this is the only recording of him to be released on a major recording. I think of him fondly when I listen to this track.

Originally the song’s arrangement had been heavily influenced by Icehouse’s Measure for Measure album. But after consideration that just didn’t seem to work for where I saw the album going. I decided to beef up the rhythm section, add a bassline for the verses and bridges consisting of a two hand tap fretless six string technique and give the song a bit more edge in the intro using a distorted piccolo bass tuned an octave and a fourth above standard bass tuning. Yes that instrument you hear in the beginning playing that oh-so-blistering lead line (snicker snicker) is actually a four string bass! (eat your heart out guitar players!)

Speaking of which, there had been several guitar players on the song over the years, Billy Connally, Chad Quist and even smooth jazz guitarist (and closet prog-o-phile) Steve Oliver. I gave Kenny a tape of a solo based on Chad’s interpretation from several years back and asked him to learn it note for note. About a week later he came into the studio to lay the track. However, unbeknownst to him or to me, the chord progression for the solo section had been truncated in the song file with the first chord being dropped off. This resulted in a change of the underlying chords for the solo that he had just learned! Once we realized what had happened and stopped laughing, unfazed, Kenny adapted Chad’s solo style to the new progression and voila, a burning guitar solo was born. Over the course of the next month or so, Brian laid his vocals and we hired Leah Hume to record the angelic background harmonies. The song was then shipped off to long time friend and mentor Tom Size (Engineer extraordinaire for Mr. Big, Y&T, Journey, Joe Satriani, David Lee Roth, etc) who translated our rough recordings into a polished final track. What I find fascinating is that this track has kind of risen to being the first single off the album. Way to go 19 year old me! 

The Feather was the first song written for this project and came about as a result of really tragic circumstances. The story follows, but bear with me folks its kind of a long one: Approximately 4 years ago while promoting my jazz album (The WorldMachine, “Above and beyond the call of beauty”) I came across a Myspace page where a very nice lady had written a blog entitled "Why I Collect Feathers". In this essay, she recounted how she had lost her 10 year old son to cancer. A few days after the funeral she returned to work but wasn't really able to concentrate. Her boss told her to take some time and go for a walk to clear her head. (cool boss eh?) On the way down the elevator she looked down and saw a penny. She picked it up to discover the date on the penny was the same year her son had been born. Smiling, she put the penny in her pocket. Once downstairs she went for a walk, reminiscing of all the good times she had with her son; all the things that made her smile when thinking of him. About an hour or so later, upon returning from her walk she went to put her coat in her car. She happened to look down and see a feather. Now, … she had never really paid much attention to stray feathers but for some reason she picked it up to examine it closer. She noticed that the base of the feather formed a perfect white heart. At that moment, she knew that feather had been put there by her son. That it was his way of telling her that he was okay now and that in time she too, would be okay. From that time forward she has been collecting feathers as a reminder of her son.

Having a son the same age, this story really affected me. The story stayed with me for the next few days until in a fit of creativity I wrote a song called "The Feather". The song literally wrote itself. (you songwriters will know exactly what I'm talking about)

This was actually before 41POINT9 had been formed. I recorded a rough bass track on my five string bass that uses tapped notes and harmonics heavily. I then sent the track to my old friend Brian Cline to see what he thought and would he be interested in singing on it. He loved the idea and sent back a fantastic vocal performance about three weeks later. At that point I hired a local player Kenny Steel to come in and help me finish the guitar and keyboard parts. We then contacted Nick D’Virgilio of Spock’s Beard fame to provide drums and percussion at his studio in Southern California. The initial sessions went so well and we all had such a good time with it, that I asked Brian and Kenny if they would be interested in doing a whole album of such material. The answer was a resounding yes. And so, 41POINT9 was born. We then hired Jackie Guyton to sing harmonies for Brian’s lead tracks and sent the song to Tom Size for mixing. To this day, my sister’s can’t listen to the song without handkerchief in hand cuz they are certain to cry by the end of it. I’m really proud of the way the song turned out and the way it deals with a very scary and emotional topic for a parent without making it schmaltzy.

One In A Bar
This song actually has a kind of funny beginning despite being sort of depressing in the lyrics. One that I hope my kid doesn’t read because I’m always telling him to pay attention in class and not goof around and that’s exactly how this song came about. At the age of 18 or so I took a music theory course and a local community college. (barely passed too!) While the instructor was explaining the use of whole notes, she stated that sometimes holding a note over a whole bar was called “one in a bar”. At this point in the lecture I had started to glaze over but that phrase “one in a bar” permeated my post pubescent brain and I thought, “Wow what a cool name for a song!”. So while everyone else was being illuminated on the proper use of longer note values, I was furiously scribbling lyrics in the back of the class. In retrospect, I suppose its no wonder I barely passed the class. Like so many of my songs, this one sat in a binder for a few decades until I decided to brush it off and see if it could be adapted to 41POINT uses. I showed Kenny the lyrics one Sunday afternoon and asked if he would like to take a stab at writing some music for it. He quickly agreed and one week later came back to the studio, acoustic guitar in hand, and played me a rough arrangement that I immediately fell in love with. He told me that one evening the previous week, he had walked out on his deck with the lyrics, an acoustic guitar and an ice-cold brew and wrote the music in about 15-20 minutes. Its amazing when music kind of writes itself. We further refined the arrangements over the following weeks and Kenny added that beautiful 5/8 string section and haunting solo section of the song. The outro section came about from a bit of left over songwriting from a previous band of Kenny’s and we had our completed song arrangement.

Some time later - Brian added his vocals the same weekend that he recorded Living In Hard Times at my studio and took this song home as well, to polish over the coming weeks.

Next up we had to find a drummer to play the song since Nick was out on tour with Cirque Du Soleil and wouldn’t be available again for another 12 months. After trying several local players with mixed results, Jimmy Keegan - Spock’s Beard’s second drummer - took pity on us and agreed to play drums on the track. After a few more finishing harmony vocals by Molly Roth the song was ready to mix. There was so much going on in the mix that at times I felt like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest, but with the help (and snide comments) of the band I persevered and got a fairly respectable mix out of the mess. All as a result of not paying attention in class over 25 years ago,…. Sheesh.

Surface Tension (A Drive Thru The City)
Surface Tension is the instrumental song for the album. Honestly it is somewhere between a proper song and an athletic event. It came about as a result of bits and pieces of bass noodling that had been kicking about in my brain pan for a few years - stuff that was left over from the jazz album I mentioned earlier. I had been thinking of the concept of balance in recent months and was fascinated by the notion of opposing forces keeping a central item or behavior in balance. I felt the apparent dichotomy of the jazz based rythms and the aggressive bass chording techniques (with heavy influence by my buddies Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley) versus the overlaid, legato, distortion guitars sort of gave an aural interpretation of the concept of opposing forces working in harmony. (Hey it sounded good at the time. And yes, there might have been cough syrup involved)

After the song was recorded and mixed, Kenny called and said, “I was listening to Surface Tension and ya know…. Its sounds like a musical drive through a big city; with the different sections corresponding to different neighborhoods. Ya know, like, Manhattan or Queens or the Bronx and such.” I thought about it and realized he was right. Now, by this time we pretty much knew we had a Prog album on our hands We also realized that with any proper Progressive Rock album, one absolutely must have at least one song with a parenthetical sub-title. So, wham-o!... one prog prerequisite was crossed off the list.

Promise The Moon
This song occupies a very special place in my heart. I wrote it for my wife and it was performed by my best buds, vocalist Kenny Byars and guitarist Chad Quist at our wedding. It was originally released in 2006 on my jazz album, but the song was too good and fit in too well with the current material not to included it here. One problem is that due to an oversight on my part, the list of credits for the musicians that played on the recording was inadvertently left out of this album’s CD liner notes. I wish to remedy that right now:
Drums: Dave Weckl
Percussion: Dave Weckl and Gary Minadeo
Bass: Bob Madsen
Piano: Phil Bennett and Rich Hubbard
Guitar: Stef Burns
String arrangements: Rich Hubbard
1st violin: Carlos Reyes
2nd violin: Andrea Young
Vocals: Brian Cline
Background vocals: Kenny Byars.

Parts of this song were recorded at my old studio in the Bay Area of California, on digital tape with others being recorded onto computer at my new studio in the Sierras. Trying to get all the tracks to play nicely with one another felt, at times, like herding cats. Eventually everyone settled into their respective places and I was able to mix the song. I really love the song and can’t wait to see if we can pull it off live.

Still Looking For The Answers
I think this song was the fourth song recorded for the album. This song started out a bit different in that I didn’t write the lyrics first. I came up with an interesting arpeggio line on my five string acoustic piccolo bass and built the song around that. The acoustic guitar sounding part on this song is actually that instrument, not a guitar at all. I remember I had been listening to a bunch of Linkin Park at that time and was interested in their use of heavy guitars juxtaposed with hypnotic loops. Using that mixture, I arranged the song and wrote the lyrics. Kenny then laid down some heavy guitars and I added some more guitar parts to the mix. (yeah I play a wee little bit of guitar but the strings are so damn close!) We had Nick add drums in the choruses and Brian laid his vocals at his studio. We then brought in Molly Roth to sing layer after layer of background vocals in arrangements worked out between Kenny and I. The result is hauntingly hypnotic and remains one of my favorite parts of the record. A few weeks later Kenny recorded his guitar solo including an impromptu salute to Ace Frehley….. (snicker snicker) I mixed it a few months later as work schedules would allow and voila, we had our title track for the album. If you listen to the outro you may notice that it’s the same progression as the piccolo parts just played on a regularly tuned six string bass.

The Torch
This is the only song on the album for which I didn’t write lyrics. Brian brought this one to the table and we all love it. It was written approximately 12 years ago for his little girl when she was a toddler. Over the years, he has recorded a few versions of it and performs it in his solo acoustic shows, but he says this is his favorite arrangement of the song, by far. When I received the initial tracks of acoustic guitars and vocals it was supposed to be just that, an acoustic guitar and vocal song; one that would act as a kind of palette cleanser for the album. It was intended to offset all the big, involved arrangements of the songs we had written and recorded thus far. That idea didn’t seem to last too long.

Something about Brian’s acoustic guitar track intrigued me and I thought, what would happen if we combined Prog with Alternative and even a little Hip Hop style production techniques. I started playing with drum loops and Kenny and I recorded some new electric guitar noodling and chords and rather sheepishly I admit, gave it back to Brian for his review. Much to our delight he loved the new direction and even wrote and recorded some additional guitar tracks for use on the song.

Now, I have always loved the bass work of Mark King of Level42 and wanted to put something of that style somewhere on the album but just couldn’t find the right way to sneak it in to any of the songs. Well, here was my chance. The hypnotic rhythm and clean guitars left lots of room for some funky blue-eyed soul stylings on Bass. I channeled my inner thumb monster and laid down a funky groove that somehow just seemed to fit. Again I got lucky, and the guys liked it. This song was the fastest and possibly one of the funnest to record. We are all very pleased with the results and can’t wait to hear how the world takes to it. I think Brian’s little girl will be proud.

1- The Bullet's In The Barrel (7:12)
2- Living In Hard Times (7:58)
3- Building Blocks (4:49)
4- The Feather (5:28)
5- One In A Bar (7:29)
6- Surface Tension (A Drive Thru The City) (6:55)
7- Promise The Moon (6:38)
8- Still Looking For The Answers (6:07)
9- The Torch (3:59)


released 03 April 2011
Vocals: Brian Cline
Bass: Bob Madsen
Guitars : Kenny Steel
Drums: Nick D’Virgilio and Jimmy Keegan on all songs except Promise The Moon

Promise The Moon;
Drums: Dave Weckl
Percussion: Dave Weckl and Gary Minadeo
Bass: Bob Madsen
Piano: Phil Bennett and Rich Hubbard
Guitar: Stef Burns
String arrangements: Rich Hubbard
1st violin: Carlos Reyes
2nd violin: Andrea Young
Vocals: Brian Cline
Background vocals: Kenny Byars.



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