We answer some questions en masse about the eponymous epic. Basses. Organs. It turns out the whole thing is 45 minutes of Ninety Nine Bottles Of Beer
Roger CortonOK, so these are e-mails where we’ve gotten the same question three times or more.
JCHThree? Wow. That qualifies as a genu-ine FAQ (laughs).
RCSo… the drum intro to Part III. It sounds planned?
JCHIs that a question?
RCOf course it’s a question. Don’t think. Just say the first thing that comes into your head.
JCHOK fine. My reaction is, “Son, the Russkies don’t take a dump without a plan.” My favourite quote from ‘Hunt For Red October’. Yes. The idea was that the quasi-random drum thing would evolve into some sort of of pattern that would tee up Part III. But pretty much every time I ran through that it would end up the same way: a sort of rhythmic structural map of Part III.
RCWhat’s a structural map?
JCHYou know, like a pop song might be A A B A. The sections of the piece. Every time I played that intro it was basically the same thing: an outline of what was coming. And that was not intentional. Since the number of bars on top didn’t conform to the music playing over it, at first it seems awkward.
RCThis is a combo. Basically, they all say, “What happened to your usual bass sounds? No fretless? No Rickenbacker?”
JCHI’ve never really cottoned to the five string bass. But as a sideman I kept getting calls about five string and I wanted to see if I could actually learn to like it. There are guys like Andre Gouché who do get inside it and use it as more than just some extra low notes and I wanted to see if I could do that. The five string seems to really work in a church context. I think because it mimics the bass pedals of an organ. So I went for that. Especially with all the pipe organ I think a four string would’ve gotten lost.
RCSpeaking of which. “There are a lot of organs.”
JCHThere sure are.
RCYou’re not taking this seriously.
JCHWell, are these -questions-? They sound like the kind of whinging I tend to do.
RCYou said it. I didn’t. Did it ever occur to you that your type of fan might share your love of (cough) -criticism-?
JCHThat’s a great insight. Seriously! OK. I’m in. I’ve become really enamoured of the organ. B3s. Pipe Organs. They’re just so damned powerful.
RCAnd speaking of ‘power’, next complaint…er… question. “I think I blew out a speaker.”
JCHI definitely wanted a wide dynamic range. Speaking of organs, I was thinking of Saint-Saens Symphony #3 (Organ). What bugs me about modern recording is this irony: we got all this new dynamic range with the CD and then ‘the loudness wars’ and iPods hit and now everything is loud but there’s no dynamic range. Hipsters even want to go back to vinyl. Dynamic range doesn’t rate that high with most people. But I wanted to go back to the original idea of synths… the unlimited dynamic range. Sadly, this means you have to be careful. It’s like classical music on steroids.
RCSo let’s end with a real question, “Quay. Is it ‘Key’ or ‘Kay’?”
JCHI think it’s ‘Kway’. You know, like Native Americans (laughs). OK, ya got me. In Ireland I’ve always heard it pronounced as key. Like the Florida Keys. I think they only say ‘Kay’ in pirate novels. But that line is what came to me. And in fact, that one line was the start of the whole thing.
RCThe whole thing?
JCHYeah. I was driving with the wipers going and ya know how ya get mesmerised by them sweeping back and forth?
RCAs opposed to paying attention to the road?
JCHHey, at least I’m not texting, pal! But yeah. I was watching that and that whole phrase popped out. “Many words said on that day as we stood there on the quay. Talking about the things we’d do… One world is not enough.” Then later I was out hiking and I started humming that and my pace seemed to feel like that 3/4 time drum thing. Come to think of it, that rhythm is a very common thing in old Irish. I guess I’d translate the term as ‘traveler songs’.
RCNinety nine bottles of beer on that wall…
JCHExactly. They do a lot of that in The Hobbit. You need something to pass the time.
RCAnd that turned into… forty five minutes of Epic.
RCForty five minutes of Epic, buddy. Forty five minutes of solid gold Epic.