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This started one miserable rainy night in the studio. Nate and I were both going through stuff I won't bother you with here, but we spent some 2 hours in catharsis.

At one point, he looked at me and simply said "I need to make music."

So, I set up a session and devised a little distorted organ sound. In this case, I presented him a challenge.

"It's the late 60s, you are the organist for England's top band. You've just lost your guitarist and now you are the lead instrument. Oh, and you're about to go on your first tour of America, opening for Jimi Hendrix. No pressure."

He devised this 5/4 pulse you hear that opens the piece and just wrote from there, piling on clarinet and saxophone parts, distorted steel drums and a variety of other strange things. We worked until about 2 am.

The next day, we met again and the phrases 'synth pop' and 'droid factory' was thrown around. Nate went through several hours worth of sounds and motifs before he settled on the one that defines the second half of the piece.

A third happenstance session occurred sometime not long after, in which we spent 5-6 hours overdubbing Nate's vocals, one line at a time, for the second half. We decided we wanted a choir of Gregorian monks humming behind the synth pop section. Why? Cause it made no sense! This is the infamous session where we were interrupted by campus police at about 3 in the morning.

The event transpired as follows:

"What are you guys doing in here?"
"Uhh, making music?"
"Oh, I guess you would be making music in the recording studio ... "

We decided the first half of the tune still felt a little empty, and Nate said he planned on filling it with lyrics. One night, I said "sing something."

He had no words.

Somewhere I'd read that Tony Visconti was fond of using multiple effects simultaneously on David Bowie's "Heroes", so I set Nate up with a microphone and an FX stew consisting of heavy Psych verb and a phaser. The idea was to use this bizarre combination to spark his imagination and inspire him creatively. The words and melody you hear on the record were improvised on the spot. We never did a second take.

With the basic piece in place, the sounds I was hearing reminded me a little bit of the Muffins, so I asked my friend Dave Newhouse, composer and woodwind-er of the legendary group to replace our MIDI instruments with the real deal.

As the album was being assembled, we decided that the first half was almost a Cardiacsy pop/punk/circus feel and the second was almost a Krautrock number. I believe this is where the title "Jekyll.Hyde" stems from - this fusion of two very different sides of the same personality.

Upon assembling the album, we felt it needed a rhythm section to propel it forward and give it that groovy Bob Leith meets Neu! feel. We enlisted the help of two drummers - our friends Brandon Collins and Mercury Tree's Connor Reilly (a Proletarians connection) to play the parts. Brandon is very much a 'Bill Ward / Terry Bozzio' type heavy handed, metal drummer, while Connor has this impeccable knack for playing a repetitive beat and making it consistently (progressively) interesting. A Jekyll and Hyde, if you will. (My one regret is not crediting Connor as 'Jekyll' and Brandon as 'Hyde').

There are parts of this track where they seamlessly trade licks and others where it sounds like Connor is laying down the changes and Brandon is soloing on top. I wish I could say this was intentional, but actually the two guys have never met. Connor is based in Oregon and Brandon is in West Virginia, so I did Brandon's recording here and Connor's was recorded by Ben Spees.

Upon receiving Connor's tracks, I stacked them on top of each other and made editing choices based on which of the two parts I felt helped best highlight the narrative, and in the spots where the two linked together in a magical way (about 90% of the time) I left them be. There's also a few moments where I purposely left them chaotic, as the madness of it all actually propelled the story. This Crimsonesque double drumming extravaganza is one of my personal highlights of the album.


Maybe things would be different
between us if you were a little looser,
around the edges, and -
I'm not sure when you changed,
but now things are different,
different and frightening, and
I'm not sure about the way you,
turned the corner.

What's the point in trying?
When all I get is dissonance, and
nothing from anyone anymore,
it's just a black hole ....


from Colouratura, released June 16, 2017
Nathan James - piano, synth,
organs, voice, theremin, treatments
Dave Newhouse - saxes
Brandon Collins and Connor Reilly - drums
Ian Beabout – treatments, dragon breaths



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Colouratura Wheeling, West Virginia

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