Saturday, February 11, 2017

Return of the Dervish

I'll try to keep this short and sweet: I made a blunder when I removed the album Instrumentality from my "official" discography by removing "Dusk Devils" and "The Nocturnal Dervish" with it; "Dervish," in particular, having been one of my most popular songs ever, and being in rotation on several radio stations. It does no good to have a song getting airplay without being available, except for maybe getting my name out there and attracting attention to my other songs. But it seems like kind of a tease (which is what most radio singles are before they make it onto a release, I guess) to have the song playing on the air and no way to purchase or stream it. Anyway, I saw the error of my ways almost immediately after replacing Instrumentality with The Instrumentality Project. The "Simplified Mix" was supposed to offer an alternative, but seeing the original's airplay tweeted to my attention over and over again cemented the feeling that I had to make it (the original) available to stream and download again.

Another catalyst for this was coming across a photograph by Loni Nicole Hoots called "In Mysterious Ways." See, I've always imagined the Nocturnal Dervish from the Snail Tunes mythology (more on that a little further on) to be a hooded, druidic, androgynous figure, which I had previously used images by John Jude Palencar and Jeremiah Morelli to depict. In the case of John Jude Palencar I didn't have permission to use his artwork, and I received a rather uncalled-for, lengthy reprimand when I asked for permission (I mean, shit, I was asking!). Jeremiah Morelli, however, gave me long as it wasn't for commercial use. So I was out of luck for a cover image until I saw "In Mysterious Ways" on Twitter (I must say that I've come across the majority of my artistic and music industry connections through this reviled form of social media) and secured the permission of Ms. Hoots - I hope that's the correct gender assumption, which I shouldn't be making if I were overly concerned about political correctness, but fuck, that gets tiresome sometimes. I just couldn't come up with an alternative title and felt weird about using their full name again, so if anyone has an alternate suggestion, I'll take it!

Anyway, I asked for a higher-resolution file of the photograph, waited a very long time, and failed to get a response, though they responded to other tweets, so I assumed that I just wasn't getting one, and I went forward with publishing the single with the cover I already had arted (my term for cropping, titling, and overall altering or constructing artwork for track art and cover art). I decided to not only republish "Dusk Devils" and "Dervish," but to map out the song's evolution. Two steps are notably missing - the "Whirlwind Mix" of "Dusk Devils" and the original "Replicant" - but I was much more satisfied with the next steps in the song's progression; respectively, the "Nocturnal Dervish Mix" that later became known as simply "The Nocturnal Dervish," and the Alternate Spin of "The Replicant." Those versions occasionally pop up in the rotating rarities available to Patreon patrons; I'm just not overly concerned with their absence from the official discography.

Now, for those who aren't familiar with the mythology behind this song, or the Snail Tunes mythology in general: a protagonist in much of my music (in fact, I maintain that the Snail has a story behind each of my songs, even if I don't know what it is yet) is the Snail, which is why it's used as a sort of mascot. In the songs "They Delving" and "Dusk Devils," the Snail has been traveling with the Bagman, who, after a harrowing journey through a dark wood, leaves our intrepid gastropod at the edge of a desert. There, it encounters the spirits of dust devils, only visible at dusk, who have been determinedly eroding the landscape to uncover the way down to a subterranean, otherworldly celebration, presided over by the king of the Dusk Devils, the Nocturnal Dervish. An EP called The Hypnotic Jamboree was once devoted to a musical telling of this chapter in the Snail's journeys. A version of it may pop up again someday, but it was removed when I decided to no longer hope to support my music career on tips alone, as it was a non-commercial EP. Not introduced in this chapter was a synthetic copy of the Dervish, known only as the Replicant, which has yet to be storied.

That about wraps it up, except for noting that I am offering this four-track single for free download at my Snail Tunes store. Just enter zero when asked to "name your price." However, tips are appreciated, and anything over $0.50 USD counts as a purchase qualifying for unlimited, DMR-free (no subscription required) streaming on Bandcamp and its free app. For those of you who subscribe to a streaming service, this release will be available on the usual suspects: Spotify, YouTube, Google Play, Apple Music, MS Groove, and TIDAL, which we be linked as they become available. If "Dusk Devils" and "The Nocturnal Dervish" were among your favorites of my songs and you've been missing their availability, please accept my sincere apologies. I hope this makes up for it!

OF NOTE: The Instrumentality Project and The Nocturnal Dervish are not available on Amazon Music Unlimited. They are available at the store, but for some reason have not been curated for Unlimited as yet. All my other releases are, so I'm not sure why; I emailed my distributor and they're clueless. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Please, enjoy, and may your inner snails remain resilient and determined.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Burning Desires

It's been over a month since I've done a blog post and for that, dear readers, I sincerely apologize. It seems I'm doing that at the beginning of each article lately... I tend not to do these unless there is something significant to report, and - while there has been a fair amount of songwriting going on - there hasn't been a lot to share. I've been trying to keep my cards close to my chest in regards to the upcoming EP. I've already shared that the writing process has slowed down a bit these days, but there has also been a lot of distraction surrounding President Trump's inauguration and his extreme actions so soon after being sworn into office.

It's no secret that I'm a bit of an extreme leftist. I've had an anarchistic lifestyle and leanings in the past; I've flirted with Wicca and am now an agnostic with Neo-Pagan spiritual practices; I'm a bi-gendered queer who was born male and identified as wholly female in another lifetime; I got married naked at the top of a large sand dune in the middle of the Columbia river (and it was the happiest day of my life); and I've always tried to fight sexism, homophobia, and racism with various forms of art.

My current career of composing mostly-instrumentals has provided music that is largely open to interpretation, appealing to a wide, diverse audience. People of all religions and walks of life follow me on social media, and for that I am very flattered and grateful. I try not to beat people over the head with my personal beliefs these days, though there are some songs in which I am blunt and abrasive, with explicit lyrics and specific messages. These tend to be marked as "explicit" ("Sublime Like Swine," "The Creeps") or have obvious titles indicating the song's intention ("Xenophobia," "Waltz with Lilith (Everything's Fucked Mix),") and can be set aside in favor of less vulgar and contentious tunes. Likewise, people can choose to Follow me and learn more about the person behind the music on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and this blog if they want to, or they can just enjoy the music and leave me out of it. It's not a problem with me. I've continually tried to have the attitude of "take what I will from it and leave the rest" - and to let others do the same - when it comes to political or spiritual systems and beliefs.

My personal belief is that a vile man is now one of the most powerful people in the world thanks to a campaign of fear and propaganda, and that he is surrounding himself with other vile people that are being placed into other positions of power. I've seen "prophetic" religious campaigns painting him as a saint while inciting intense Islamophobia, and I've seen people saying "hail Trump" while giving the Nazi salute. There are some frightening parallels to Hitler's fascist campaign and seizing of power. And now an Executive Order has been issued banning immigration and refugees from specific Muslim-majority countries torn apart by other religious extremists, while right-wing extremists and white supremacists are feeling empowered and crawling out of the woodwork in response to Trump's presidency. I'm more frightened of and threatened by them than Muslim terrorists. I've felt the hatred and been victim of the violence that white Christian extremists are capable of, and it's a time of high anxiety in my country right now. I am only reassured by the intense pushing back of civil rights activists and the resistance of people who refuse to succumb to a campaign of blatant racism and intolerance.

I've read right-wing publications and have several Christian and right-wing friends who have tried to "educate" and reassure me, but it will take a lot of convincing. Meanwhile, Trump has already put into action some of the left-wing's fears and made public statements in support of "religious freedom" (as if there wasn't already discrimination and refusal of the recognition of certain civil rights running rampant) and the desire to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. An artist friend of mine actually said she supports this, saying that this country "needs more homes and less museums" - as if any of Trump's proposed actions would reduce homelessness, and that all art is paintings and sculptures in grand buildings. As an artist, I think it should be obvious what my stance on this is. Art is essential to our culture and the nurturing of our souls. That the NEA is such a small percentage of the national budget makes the proposition even more offensive and absurd.

So, now I've weighed in on my political stance and my country's current events. I've been plagued by intense depression and anxiety over the past few months. Part of my response to empower myself and not succumb to fear, paralysis, and even suicidal ideation, has been to be more vocal about my beliefs and to create art that specifically reacts and responds to these events. A particular song, "Yours To Burn," has been in development, and it seemed appropriate to share a demo with the public as a way of protesting the recent Executive Order.

This song was actually inspired by a line from the series finale of the SyFy werewolf drama Bitten. Yes, I like supernatural trash TV; don't judge me! Anyway, Bitten exceeded me expectations in several ways. I'll try not to share too much, but there's a scene when the pack's ancestral home needs to be burned to the ground, and the former pack master hands the new alpha a book of matches and says, "This house is yours to burn." It was such an eloquent gesture of bequeathing power that I had to write it down immediately, and a rhythm of metallic guitar, resonating synth, and an acoustic-and-electronic beat quickly formed in my head. Then, the inauguration happened, and the "you don't have to wait your turn" - as in, you don't have to wait for power to be bestowed on you - was my empowering response. I'm really not trying to advocate fire and destruction in response to Trump's presidency, but I am metaphorically urging people to fuck shit up and "take the power back" (a little Rage Against The Machine for ya; I actually kind of think of this song as my "Take The Power Back," though I know it doesn't really compare).

Though the song isn't really ready for publication - I'm taking a breather from it in favor of developing other song ideas - this seemed a particularly good time for a public release. While I can respect that immigration reform and government vigilance are topics that should maybe be discussed, taking the extreme action of an Executive Order blatantly targeting a religious minority and Middle Easterners in general really pissed me off, and seems to me to be a frightening flirtation with fascism. So not only have I shared a preview on my YouTube channel - which was only going to be shown to Patreon patrons (it was actually shared with them a day earlier) - I decided that, similar to the Fuck Your Hatred EP that was my response to the Pulse nightclub shootings, a free (or name-your-price) EP was called for.

"Movement" and "Revolutions" are included because their titles can be politically interpreted, and because they're fun to groove to; "Xenophobia" and "The Creeps" are both songs meant to provide sociopolitical commentary; and the "Everything's Fucked" mix of "Waltz with Lilith" just seemed very appropriate, because everything is a little fucked at the moment. "Lilith" also brings about a feeling of solace for me, and I hope it provides it for others, even if it's kind of a downer to end the EP on. Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy it! An important aside: if you're going to leave a tip for this EP, please note that Bandcamp will be donating its portion (15%) of all sales to the American Civil Liberties Union as its own response to the Executive Order tomorrow (February 3rd)! So it will also be a great day to buy any my other songs, EPs, and albums! I've always been proud of sharing my music through Bandcamp, which I believe is absolutely one of the best platform for indie artists, and that their share of sales has been more than fair. That they will be donating their share tomorrow is absolutely awesome! I looked into making donations from NoiseTrade tips myself (NoiseTrade includes an option to donate to charities) but could only find credit card options, and I do all of my online transactions through PayPal. So I'm thrilled that Bandcamp is doing this!

Because I always try to make these blog articles a little extra special, I thought I'd share one other thing: another preview of the upcoming EP, a song called "Familial Germs." I already have ideas for altering it (hell, I already have ideas to alter "Less Sinister Cousins," and that's one of my absolute favorites!) so this isn't exactly as it will be on the next release (which is tentatively called Counterbalance; actually, you can pretty much count on that), but I think it's pretty damn close.

This song preview has already been up at Patreon for a while now, so I'm demonstrating just one of the many ways in which I reward patrons for their pledge supporting my art. Unreleased tracks, rarities, and Artist's Editions of the albums and the EP Elemental, are permanently available, and early downloads and previews are a couple of the ways that I try to make my Patrons feel special. All pledges automatically include a download of an Artist's Edition of the release that the pledges are for. Artist's Editions typically include bonus tracks and a PDF booklet of artwork and liner notes, and feature individualized track art. The above version of "Yours To Burn" is actually a shortened version; a longer cut has a cello solo that I'm trying to iron out, and will probably be a bonus track on the Artist's Edition of Counterbalance.

Okay, that's enough of plugging my Patreon. So anyway, enjoy the music, consider making a pledge, and shop at my Bandcamp store tomorrow to directly support indie music as well as the ACLU's fight against Trump's Executive Order!

And, as always (but especially now), may your inner snails be resilient and determined.