Martin (The Home Current) is a lover and collector of film soundtracks, and Peter has long been reminding Martin of the filmic flavour of a wide region of his music and its potential destination as part of films as yet unmade; Peter is a cinephile whose love of watching films takes away much of the little time he has to spend on making his own music. Martin has threatened to kill Peter if he doesn’t release more music. Unfortunes is a compromise that will keep Peter alive a little longer.
Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Peter Wix (Jean Paul Special) whose collaboration with Luxembourg-based electronic musician/producer The Home Current is out now on Subexotic Records.
More TBTs in our archives.
It’s probably important to know that the texts and delivery for all the Unfortunes tracks were directly informed by Martin’s music. I had all the clues and cues I needed, and full choice of which songs to write for. So the process, which worked well for us, begins in this way/
The percussive metals in Knights were constantly reminding me of swords and sabres, but this was not written as an opener, although it is, appropriately, about dawn. But this is the dawn we’ve never had to suffer, the nauseating crack that brings barbarity and death as raiders – or a mighty bomb – hit your home before you have time to breathe the new day. We should see that we or our children may have to suffer such a dawn. I didn’t want to leave it too abstract, so the clues to what kind of people will bring that dawn are in the poem, as is the way we might be ready for it. And the title, which should have spun on the word dawn, but instead puns on night, seemed more functional if it underlined the perpetrators and a call to action. A dark start, but always at its darkest before track 2.
One of the first recorded, and both text and vocals were grateful to Martin’s mysterious and dramatic verse synths, but also the uplifting changes, the ideal accompaniment to a drunken ambulatory self-analysis and—since nothing is what it seems: nothing—a self-deceptive process of coming to terms with a final goodbye to a friend (mostly fictional to be honest) who handled life better than all of us at the funeral. If we can accept that there is treasure to find, life can be better if we look for that, rather than dwell on our shortcomings. But keep dawn in mind 😉
Martin’s jaunty bass work here, like the fat haunches of someone who wants the whole pavement to him/herself, made for something veering towards comic, but perhaps more a Marvel comic than comedy. I was so pleased that David Soulscorch nailed this one in his I Heart Noise review even adding a perfect brushstroke of smarm to the corporate figure I’m portraying. The pretensions of the business world in attempting to monetise art don’t make for a new focus, but I hope I’ve added some nuances by channeling my own Colour Concierge. Fans of Better Call Saul might like to know that throughout the recording the figure in my head was the unctuous lawyer character Howard Hamlin, played so well by actor Patrick Fabian. This is the solicitation (with a full license to pun, solicitude better fits the fawning anxiety of the approach), with the rejection (repulse) coming four tracks later hopefully as a liberating climax to the story. It was fun to write, and was cut down from a much longer text.
Most of these tracks are about what we lose as we go along, what’s at stake: life, self-esteem, honesty, dignity,…Here it’s way of life. The more our randomness and individuality is tampered with by the modelling approaches of those who want to control us and sell to us, the more we need to remember the early battles our ancestors had with these numbers men. Martin and I did think about taking a line from this as the album title: Pissing Alone on the Railway Lines. My grandfather, Alf, really was an accountant, commuting daily to Waterloo. And he really did write books about betting and pools systems. Most of the things of today would have tried his patience. I know him best through what my mother said about him, since he died when I was at the age my daughter, Charlotte, is now.
And Charlotte asked if she might have a go at recording a vocal. So we were talking one day about how animals get anthropomorphized in stories, and it occurred to me that a number, 55 for example, might provide a suitable extreme example of anthropomorphism to examine in a few lines. And from there we get ask just what a number is, what abstract can mean for us (or without us) and whether we have the ability or need or any special right to deny it the properties of other things. Philosophy? Sure it is, but as well as any other track on the album, I think Charlotte’s voice and Martin’s vibrant, elevating frequencies really sum up another common theme of Unfortunes: however much we think we know, we just do not want to see life without the brocade woven by all its warm intuitions and glittering magic. There’s never a better time to think about that than when this record was released.
The USA is always fascinating, whichever angle you choose to look at it from. For a hundred years at least it has been the society of spectacle, and the suspense growling in that show – so often a shitshow – was perfect to drag out some surreal imagery for Martin’s hard, pulsating beats. The interaction between us, Martin in Luxembourg, myself in Spain, was probably at its most fruitful and synergetic here. But his sudden musical detour into an 18th-century drawing room was pure Kubrick, if not Hitchcock, and when I heard that I really felt that my words and performance were opening new spaces for him, just as his music was pushing me to write in different ways. It’s There is good for at least one other version, and that’s coming soon.
Written towards the end of putting the collection together, I was trying a number of voices against different draft tracks by Martin, just to get the sparrows reflection across. I don’t remember where the Mediterranean gentleman voice came from, but as soon as he started talking through me, the whole thing came out as an improvisation that needed little refining. This voice just took over. The man must have a name, but I don’t know what it is. Again, we’re looking at ways to live, but here also how to let live.
The first vocal to be recorded, and one of those poems where the title comes first. Hetty is real. I grew up in a family of women. No elder males, but a coterie of unmarried great aunts, all of them very kind and funny. But there were stories I heard of great loves they had. They were just stories, but Hetty used to shut down right in front of us. She’d close her eyes and sort of wink out of the company, the conversation, everything for 20 seconds or so, as if in some restorative contact with another world. Martin gave me this real thriller soundtrack and it seemed perfect for dramatizing the effect that the misfortunes of love can bring.
Standards are flags, of course, but they are also norms and conventionalisms, blind traditions. This house really exists and the changing flags displayed outside it are real too. It’s a standard for me to wonder at the aims and beliefs of people who would claim to identify with such things; on the first Jean Paul Special album, the song Destroy All Flags explored the subject. People won’t stop flying them, of course, but the apparent muddle of their connections with these frankly dangerous symbols seemed like a good textual accompaniment to what sounded to me like Martin’s most jarring and cruel musical context, and I think the softer tone of the delivery I eventually went for probably counterbalances that severity in the track, much in the way I’d want to do in any conversation with the people who live in that house.