My return and XTRG

I’ve been away for a few days on some small treks, trying to diminish stress. Now this could have been a perfect time to work on some more Gatecrasher stuff. And I did some work on 2 songs: “Blowing Up The Metro” and “The Warning Signs Were There” and got ideas for another song “Landmine Sugar”. I could have done more work but I was pretty serious about getting this r&r. The funny thing is a lot of the music I’ve made has come out of dark places. I don’t want Gatecrasher to come out of that.

So  what exactly do I mean by my music coming out of dark places? Allow me to tell you the untold story of my band, X-Tokyo-River-God. (link to the music)

XTRG started off in March of 2005. I was experimenting with samples and came across a good one, strangled it, spun it backwards and laid down a robotic text to speech voice (that we call Nataly K) over it talking about saying one magic word that can destroy the world. Tada. I had made a song, called Snow Fort, and it was a creepy one. It didn’t win the songfight that it was in but it earned some strong reviews include a Fightmaster’s Pick. That was amazing and fuel enough for me to continue making these crazy soundscape pieces.

Now for some perspective on where I was in my life. XTRG was bore out of the fact that I wasn’t sitting around playing my guitar. I was live in a hellhole apartment in Brooklyn where I was dealing with roaches, arguments, mice, money troubles and a whole assortment of things. All that and my marriage was about to take a turn for the worst too. I was right on the threshold of a big bout with depression and didn’t even know it.

So, I continued plugging away into making XTRG songs. I released “Devils” and “Let’s Go Boy” and they both went over pretty well with the Songfight audience but people were tiring of hearing Nataly’s creepy voice, so I attempted to do some songs with me singing. “Saint Peter” and “Digital Chimera” were colossal failures and I went into a headspin. Honestly looking back at the time period, some part of me really needed XTRG desperately. I needed something to be working out well because there was so much falling down around me.

I turned to Johnny Cashpoint, who throughout my time at Songfight has been my musical mentor and frequent co-collaborator, and Noah McLaughlin. XTRG as just strangled samples was not working (note- only a month has passed since “Snow Fort”) so I asked them to help create a more organic sound while still experimenting. The resulting song was “Ellis Island”. I produced the song and to tell you how my mental state was deteriorating at the time, I cannot recall how I put this together. Regardless, I am extremely proud of the result.

Then things began to get a little more blurry as my personal life began to get crazier, my work with XTRG began to change too. “…George Lucas” and “…Hand Me Downs” were solid collaborations between the trio. Though as Noah & J$ added more to the mix, I was adding in less and less into the group I had created. Then came the oddest part of the journey- One Beautiful Summer. Noah & J$ gave me their pieces for a song and I tried to produce it and create something great like “Ellis Island” and I couldn’t. I couldn’t figure out how to make the pieces fit. I ended up creating a strangled mess, “One Beautiful Summer”. Noah & J$ didn’t seem to like it. What did they do, they took all the same samples and created the song “Courage” with new lyrics and my only contribution was Nataly’s vocals reading out Noah’s lyrics.

I hit rockbottom musically and personally. Soon after, I moved out of NY and into a place I hated in NJ and my marriage had the moment that started its slow collapse. Next thing you know, I was in the hospital dealing with depression.

I started XTRG back up again in January of 2006. I tried to regain that spark that I had at the beginning of the project. Except now, it wasn’t creating music as a method of getting some kind of gratification that I needed. I was trying to find myself again and rebuild. I had already began working as a songwriter more, but this was the first real big composition. I got the amazing Anti-M to join the band and we created “Don’t Think I Don’t Miss You”. It is one of the songs I am most proud of and it went on to become our most noteworthy song as it became a part of Oddio’s Calling All Fiends compilation.

I couldn’t hold it all together though. I was still a mess. It would be seven months before I could pull it together again. I enlisted Roymond into the fold and so came “Rhymes with Lucia” and I still struggled to contribute to a band.  I wasn’t ready yet but it was progress.  XTRG would make one more tune a year later but really the band was a part of my history by then. Or so I thought…

Songfight’s 2nd New york concert happened last year and it was the perfect storm. There was Noah, Roymond, J$ and myself all in one place (Anti-M quit the band, Elaine DiMasi would assist in her stead). We had to try to make XTRG work live. But there was a question for me, could I do this? XTRG had come from a different mental place. The answer was yes.  XTRG  may have been born out of the darkness in me but life had changed. The performance was odd and artsy and wonderful to do. Now when I make music, I know I can get inspiration from the darkness I’ve seen in my life. I also know that I don’t have to be in that darkness. I’m determined that Gatecrasher will be the first piece of music I’ve made in a long time that isn’t me creating while in a depressive stupor.

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4 Responses to “My return and XTRG”

  1. The XTRG live set was my second favorite part of that concert (after our own Dollar Bill & the Inkpoints set) 🙂
    Your cover was especially memorable!
    -bill

  2. noah mclaughlin (yes, that one) Says:

    It’s funny, b/c I remember only all the things that I screwed up during that live set (including my vox for that Beatles cover being SWALLOWED by Elaine’s drumming). It was hella fun to put together, tho: “How the _fuck_ are we going to replicate this _live_?” That, for me, has always been the essence of XTRG: “Neat idea; now how can we tweak it to make it _really_ cool?” Experimenting (and some experiments fail, that’s the way of it), but always trying something new and weird. I can still remember “Let’s Go Boy” keeping me up at nights.

  3. Ok, so let’s make some more music!

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