Monday, September 14

The Story Behind The Song. Track 3 - Buy Me Out

OK, so I know exactly what Buy Me Out is about, but it's going to be some work to reconstruct how it was written.

I'm pretty sure this one started with sound-based inspiration. Specifically, with the mammothly awesome Cure-like sound of my Telecaster Bass VI through the Dr. Z RxES. What you're hearing on the track during the verses is mostly the Bass VI. People seem to think it's Pat's bass, but it's not, though this is a natural error. A Bass VI is a guitar tuned one octave down, so it sounds kind of like a bass but it's played more like a guitar (with a pick, with chords, etc.) My low E is actually tuned to G (it's too flabby when tuned to low E), so that breaks the rule a bit, but the other five strings are tuned to standard one octave down (GADGBE instead of EADGBE)). The Bass VI was originally popular in the sixties for surf rock, and my interest in the instrument stems from the Cure. If you like the sound of Disintegration, much of the guitar work on that record is actually Bass VI work. The leads in Pictures of you, for instance, are Bass VI riffs. It gives a woody, marimba-like tone when played up the neck that you can't replicate with a guitar.

So basically, I had this riff in 5/4 that seemed pretty cool. It was driving. It was dark, but in this snarly way. It had energy for sure. So I took it to practice and we played with it and I did the usual "ba de dah" singing thing that I do. Later, I wrote the lyrics.

The lyrics were originally inspired by an executive at my former workplace. I won't name names or companies, but suffice it to say that I worked for a company that suffered (in a major and obvious way) from poor executive leadership. And some of those executives walked away with a LOT of money, despite their obvious failures. It still amazes me to think about some of the severance packages. Six figures delivered every MONTH for the rest of your life? For driving a company into the ground? Sounds nice. Now, that said, I'm sure a lot of these execs were great people. Or at least some of them must have been. A few, at least? But every once in a while, you'd meet an executive that seemed quite snake-like. That's the inspiration for Buy Me Out.

It doesn't hurt that I'd also watched the Enron documentary not too long ago and of course the financial crisis began to rage right around the time I penned the tune, so that's all in there, too. One of the biggest Enron guys left the company just in time to avoid the meltdown. He's now one of the wealthiest landowners in Colorado. How do you like them apples? (While you are dying, I'll fly away...)

While we were in the middle of tracking Mantoloking, I walked into the control room after a guitar overdub and saw Steve press the talkback mic and go "hmmmmMmMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm" like an opera singer warming up. Then he played the track back with that in front of it. I asked "is that staying?" (Not that I didn't like it. I was excited!) I think he replied in the affirmative, but I don't remember. So that's Steve in the beginning.

Only it's not! When it came time for Steve to mix the song, he sent me a txt asking "is it OK if the cowbell flies around like it's possessed?" I of course said yes. He then told me later how he painted the following sonic picture in the mix:

1. Steve took the opening "HmmmmmmMMMMmMMmmmmm" and stuck it in an indoor swimming pool reverb effect. So now we have a scene: Bernard Madoff lounging in his dimly lit indoor swimming pool.

2. Then we've got a maraca that goes "shick-shick" every 10 beats. (Listen close, you'll hear it!) That's the coke being doled out on a mirror.

3. When the chorus hits, here comes our demon cowbell. This is the satanic ritual in full effect. Bernard, coked up, in his pool, is summoning the demons of financial fraud to his aid.

4. Finally, when you hit the end of the song, that rattlesnakey sound that preceeds the abrupt arrangement turn (a vibro-slap in reverse) signifies the start of the financial meltdown.

5. And as the lead vocals split apart and war with themselves, there's another voice - Chad's - merged with mine and hidden in the echo of the swimming pool. Is Bernard possessed? Maybe there's more than meets the eye (or ear), here.

Anyway, just some color. I think Steve had a lot of fun mixing Buy Me Out and I really enjoy the creativity that he brought to the song's production.

Next up: I'm Just Trying To Help (Me Like You)

- Jesse Kates / Download our music for FREE