Saturday, April 30, 2011

Living in the Gaps

Me living in the gaps

 This song always sits in the 'I'm not sure' basket. Somedays I think has real potential. On other days I absolutely despise it.

I can't decide.

There is this rather limp/strange Beach Boys vocal thing I was trying to do at the end, which kind of grates me now. On the other hand, I like the tune. I also like the sliding guitar thing, but I can't help but think it is (as always) in the wrong key for me.

I think the verses need to be longer, but I had run out of words. Another problem is that the structure of the song was improvised and it didn't leave me enough bars to work with...

On the other hand, I love the phrase 'living in the gaps'.

This song is like a old friend or acquaintance that you are happy to see every now and then. You have a great time reminicising, and then run out of things to talk about. There is enough to keep you coming back, but you just don't click like you wish you did...

Recently a friend of mine bought me a book called 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott. She writes about writing and the process of developing an idea that is worth pursuing. In it she discusses the fear that all writers have of someone finding and reading their first drafts.

She describes the panic of writing a first draft and the anxiety that follows worrying that the perception of your magic will be dispelled if someone knew what you actually wrote on your first go.

First drafts are only there to help you know what you don't want to do.

Well, as much as I agree with her, I have realised that with this blog, I am actually doing the unthinkable. I am showing you first drafts.

But I am showing you these drafts with open arms and ears. Take them as they are. What you have are the initial moments of inspiration, or performances that capture the only recorded versions of my ideas.

My dream is to one day make a second draft. Record them as I actually imagine them. But until I have the $ this is all I have.

And I'd rather share them than hide them. So bring your imagination too. You can all be co-writers if you want to be.

And thank you for listening and reading. Your support and endorsement is compelling me on. That can't be a bad thing...can it?

Living in the Gaps (original 8-track demo)
(Words & Music by Andrew Savage)

Look at all those broken things
You've got a piece you just can't seem to fit

When you're wrong
You're wrong
When you're right
You always stand into the light

I love the way
The cards would fall
But now the Joker
Pins me to the wall

When you're wrong
You're gone
When you're right
You always stand into the light

Living in the gaps
It's not easy
I turn my back
And you're all over me
Try to find you
I look right through you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Song for Greta / When You Play The Drums

These two songs were written for my children.

The music for Song for Greta was inspired by Buddy Holly. When you play the drums was actually written after I had seen Dean & Britta perform the Andy Warhol screen test show.

One of the things we do as a family is dance manically to everything from Nick Cave's Murder Ballads through to Katy Perry (you know you love it too) and The Ramones. We also often get a band together to perform songs (chosen by the kids) from Arcade Fire and Karen O to name a few.

I love it.

We call our band 'Little Dinosaurs', and while our arrangements are chaotic to say the least, the joy of making a racket with your children is undeniable.

I think I will let these songs speak for themselves...

For Greta and Jude.  I love you both very much.

Song for Greta
Original 8 track demo
(Words and music: Andrew Savage)

My little girl
There's no eye in her hurricane
She makes me crawl
Then she makes me stand up again
We always know where she is
She won't let us forget

My little girl
She wants everything and nothing
She takes it from the shelf
And then she puts it back again
We don't know what she wants
But she won't let us forget

I wouldn't change her
Everyday she's more like her mother

My little girl
There's no eye in her hurricane.

When You Play The Drums
Original 8 track demo
(Words & music: Andrew Savage)

When you play the drums
Lift your skinny arms
Make another start
Lose your bleeding heart
And when you want to cry
Remember you are mine
When you play the drums
For me

Stand up
You've got to cool him down
Walk away
You've got to start again
When you play the drums
For me

Close your tired eyes
Keep carrying the fire
Another dreamless night
You can't lose the light
That makes you walk the line
Remember you are mine
When you play the drums
For me

Stand up
You've got to cool him down
Walk away
You've got to start again
When you play the drums
For me

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Man in Black and the road to Damascus (Hey Paul)

Johnny Cash

It is skirting close to cliche these days to love Johnny Cash. But I am comfortable with that. While it is his music that keeps me coming back, I find myself equally fascinated with his complicated relationship with spirituality and religion.

In fact, some of my favourite of his tracks are the gospel ones. They seem to ache with hope and anguish in equal doses. Sometimes they verge on the ridiculous (The Greatest Cowboy of Them All), sometimes they are apocalyptic (When the Man Comes Around), sometimes they are downright terrifying (God's Gonna Cut You Down), and others are steeped in tradition (I'll Fly Away). No matter what, the thing that catches me is the authenticity and honesty that he brings to the performance. It disarms me every time.

It is irrelevant whether the listener shares his faith or not.

This is because Johnny manages to remain remarkably human when dealing with the divine.

My father bought me Johnny Cash's book "The Man in White" which retells the story of the apostle Paul and his experience on the road to Damascus through the eyes of the Man in Black. As the story goes, Paul (who was at the time called Saul) had made it his life mission to persecute and kill Christians. On his way to Damascus, he was struck from his horse and blinded by Jesus who asked him, "Why do you persecute me?". Well, Saul changed his name to Paul and became an advocate instead.

In the "Man in White", Johnny identifies himself with Paul. The blurb of the book sums up the connection:

Johnny Cash. The Apostle Paul.
Passionate. Controversial.
Fiery. Destructive. Redeemed.

Johnny sees the human side of Paul. Celebrates his weakness and shares in his victories. I like how Johnny grounds this story in a human experience, and connects it to his own.

While Paul's letters have never been my favourite part of the New Testament, I can't help but feel jealous of him and Johnny. They have complete certainty of purpose. Absolute conviction.

This quality is scary in the hands of the wrong people, but can become admirable in those have perception, tolerance and a genuine sense of direction. The problem is that the ideas too often turn sour, the plans go astray, the attention span wanes, the vision is inevitably diluted by the passing of time, the conviction shattered by doubts, and the person makes themself more important than the purpose.

I'm happier treading water in the mystery these days, but every now and then, I catch a glimpse of Johnny and Paul's certainty and wonder.

This song is a my own letter to Paul. The first version is a live recording of 'The Dickens' in May 2010. The second clip is of 'Savage Adams'. My band mate and collaborator Dan Adams wrote an extra verse to this song (which he sings at the beginning), and played a crucial role in arrangement.

Hey Paul (Live w/ The Dickens May 2010)
(Words: Andrew Savage & Dan Adams Music: Andrew Savage w/Adams, King, Eastwood & Rhoades)

Hey Paul (Live w/ Savage Adams 2010)
(Words: Andrew Savage & the first verse by Dan Adams Music: Andrew Savage w/Adams, Eastwood)

Hey, Saul
We never questioned you
Because we'd come to know the bitter truth
Till you fell
Split your lip
And you bloodied the road
I guess you felt kind of small, Saul
As you had to depend on us sychophants
And fair weather friends
As you stumbled
Along that dusty road

You were so blind
A bit like me

Hey Paul
I envy you
With no doubt at all
And half the truth
I think of you
On that road

And I can't say I like all that you wrote us
But I envy you
On the road to Damascus

Blind and seeing
At the same time
And the thorn is deep in your side
But doubt's a deeper thorn in mine

And I can't say I like all that you wrote us
But I envy you
On the road to Damascus

Were you blind like me?

Were you blind like me?
But I'm still seeing
Won't you dance for me?

Are you leaving? 
I'm still seeing

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Well

Hansel & Gretel
 There are three reoccurring images in my songs; hands, home and water.

This song uses water. 

The song is about the compulsion and thirst for reason - and the feeling that you cannot flee from the past. I think.

It is driven by anger, anxiety and fear (which Obi Wan tells us 'lead to the dark side of the force'). This is communicated through the frenetic rhythm and chaotic guitar playing. The bass guitar acts as the conductor, combating the chaos and trying to find a foundation for the narrative to stand on. The lyric follows the internal monologue of the narrator as he/she realises that the cup has run dry. In the song, 'the well' is where life is - it contains the fuel that will compel the narrator to continue the discussion...

To combat the 'dark side'.

It is both deeply personal and strangely distant to me as a lyric. I instinctively understand the song when I sing it, but find it very hard to articulate exactly what is going on. My favourite line from the song is, 'my bones are a frame you hang your trinkets from'. To me, this is a line directly addressing the past and acknowledging how she leaves a trail made up of snippets of memory and glimpses of meaning. Like Hansel & Gretel, it is a trail that you can follow home some days, and on others, it takes you right into the witch's cauldron.

There is a little nod in the lyrics to blues man Robert Johnson. The hell hound in this song though is a metaphor for the consequences of days gone by. In John Irving's book 'The Hotel New Hampshire' the family at the centre of the story have a stuffed dog called 'Sorrow'. There is an accident involving an aircraft which plummets into the ocean and Sorrow (who has been stuffed by the one of the children in the story who is obsessed with taxidermy) floats to the surface of the wreckage. The family, who go on to live through some traumatic moments, coin the phrase 'sorrow floats' to describe the process of dealing with life as it happens around them. I really like that phrase. Sorrow floats in this song too, but this Sorrow is also a hell hound, running after you...ravenous and demanding to be fed.

This song is called The Well and it came about when I was playing around with dance beats on my drum machine. I would take the dance rhythms and change the drum sound from 'analog' to 'live rock'. I then started played bass guitar over the shuffle and improvising lyrics. The first version is recorded live with 'The Dickens' in December 2010. It features Mark Henderwood's d├ębut performance with the band. He had never played with us before until this moment. No rehearsal, just straight on stage with a key for the song and a series of codes we agreed on so he could follow the structure. He does quite well if you ask me...

The Well (Live Dec 2010)
(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage w/ Adams, King, Rhoades and Henderwood)

The Well (Live May 2010)
(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage w/ Adams, King, Rhoades and Eastwood) This live version comes from 'The Dickens' first gig in May 2010. I really like Jonathan's guitar playing in this one.


The Well (original 8 track demo)
(Words & music: Andrew Savage)

The Well
In my father's mansion 
I'm cutting you the key
From the marrow of my bones
And I'm keeping cuts for me
And I'm thinking about how
I need to see

My bones are a frame 
You hang your trinkets from
Memories of the days 
When I could still make you come
And I'm thinking about how
I need to see

Take me to the well
And let me drink

I've seen signs and wonders
They were written on your wrist
But it's hard to stay hungry
When the seasons start to shift
And I'm thinking about how
I need to see

In my father's mansion 
I'm still cutting you a key
You cut me from the doorlist
Sent hellhounds after me
And I'm thinking about how
I need to see

Take me to the well
I need to drink.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stories from a train (Disappear)

After our band 'Chopper' disbanded I was a bit at sea. I wasn't too sure what I wanted to do and the 'gang element' that I loved about being part of a group felt like too much effort to try and recreate. I just didn't have the energy.

I was fortunate to be asked to play with Campbell Kneale in 'Sunship' and then to act as the guitar player for a covers band called 'Shakespeare's Bitch'.

'Sunship' was an amazing experience. It was violent, melodic, and delivered at 200 mph. It was also kind of short lived and the legend of 'Sunship' remains intact to those who heard and saw us.

That left me with Shakespeare's Bitch'. It was actually quite fun to be playing covers...we did Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Velvet Underground etc.

It was during a pretty shambolic performance at the Paramount theatre that I noticed Michael Duffy - an old friend from Rotorua in the crowd. We got talking. He played bass. So, with the inclusion of Richard Wise on drums we set off to play some music. We wanted to have a noisy guitar and to be a three piece, and it kicked me off into trying to write songs again. We were called "The Resistance'.

Bob Mould

Disappear was among the first songs that I wrote in that period and I was listening to a lot of Bob Mould. He is perhaps the most constant musical obsession I have had. It began with Husker Du when I was 14 and has not yet abated. Disappear is not my favourite piece by any means, but I remember it fondly as one of the baby steps I took back towards feeling confident enough to try and write a song again post 'Chopper'.

The inspiration for the song came from a weird train trip I took to Melling station in Lower Hutt. A strange bearded man of about 25 years old with brilliant blue eyes tapped me on the shoulder. He was sitting behind me and started by saying, "You know, no matter what, you shouldn't give up being creative." At that stage, I was sitting on the train considering selling my guitar. It was a strange thing to say to a stranger. We talked a little about art and music. Then, when we got off the train, I turned to say goodbye, and he had gone. In my mind, I like to think he was an angel of sorts.

And so I went home and picked up my guitar...

This version of Disappear was played by 'The Resistance' and was recorded live at Bodega in 2005(?). It features Richard Wise on drums and Michael Duffy on bass.

(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage w/ Michael Duffy & Richard Wise)

And here is the original 8 track attempt:

(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage)

It seemed like a thousand hours
I'm coming back to you
Sitting on the train with the ticket man
And I came back to you
Walking by the river with mud on my hands
I'm coming back to you
Standing on the bank
There's blood on my hands
I'm coming back to you
You you know the truth
You make it hurt
You make it burn
I covered my eyes
I covet a prayer
I looked to find you
I can't disguise you
You just make me disappear
I made it through the city lights
And I'm coming back to you
Opened my door with a broken key
And I came back to you
Sitting with the words I left behind
And I'm coming back to you
Walking on the river with blood on my hands
And I came back to you
You you know the truth
You make it hurt
You make it burn
I covered my eyes
I covet a prayer
I looked to find you
I can't disguise you
You just make me disappear

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mud and Sulphur (Without Guardians)

This song is called Without Guardians. It is an attempt at self mythology. An attempt to turn the past into magic and make a legend out of memory. To embellish and remember the truth as sensation.
It is a song that draws on a hundred stories. Not just mine, but all of ours.

It is about the urgency and immediacy of teenage romance and friendship. It is part observation, part hazy recall. And 100% mythologised.

The (admittedly cheesy and self conscious) lyrics recount the anxiety and elation of being young and the freedom of those first times being left without guardians.

However, near the end, the the dark underbelly of the song emerges to reveal the singer's insecurity and brokenness.  It is an admission of guilt. It is a shameless acknowledgement of an inability to translate clearly. That all along it was broken hearts and the broken hearted. And they too were without guardians.

So, this one is for the Rotorua gang. It is both a tribute and an apology. I drifted through those years, and those who drifted with me will remember...

It is not my best work. I know that. But songs don't always need to be more than what they are. 'Without Guardians' achieved its goal. It secured the mythology of the past in 4 minutes and 18 seconds and buried the rest.

This version was my original 8 track demo - wrong key as usual and a little too one dimensional to follow up with a band. But this blog is not about perfection, it is about enjoy it for what it is.


In 2008 I toyed around with an acoustic set up called 'North Island Towns'. Here is a video of us playing Without Guardians live in September of that year. Nikki Maetzig is singing, Pat Smith is on guitar, Phil Callaghan is on some tastefully placed keys and the ever faithful Mike Rhoades adds some very subtle percussion.

This version of the song was recorded live in December 09. Michael Rhoades was a spontaneous addition on shaker, tambourine and backing vocals. It was pretty unrehearsed. I was playing a solo set.


Without Guardians
(Words & music by Andrew Savage)

Sitting home on a Saturday night
This time I think I've got the feeling right
I was making the call for you
We wade in
Through the brambles and weeds
Take a seat on a hot stone in the evening heat
I was making a song for you

I walked through the leaves for you
Sat in the trees for you
I was doing it all for you

Do you remember your fingers twisting into mine?
At kerosene creek that time
I felt naked in front of you
Wild horses and you’re so cruel
We lay on the floor and let the night grow still
I remember I was falling into you, or were you falling into me?

I talked myself up for you
I sat in the back for you
I was doing it all for you

We were young
And we were broken hearted
But I was breaking them all for you.
I was breaking hearts for you
I was breaking apart for you
Without Guardians with you

Without Guardians

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pop songs and Prozac (Black Dog)

This is a song confessional, so here is a confession.

I wrote this song in November 2010. This tune was something that I began humming as I walked to work during the last few weeks of the school year, and it was was during these walks that I realised I was losing a battle that I had been fighting for too many years.

Those of you who have suffered from depression will know what I am talking about.

The crazy thing about depression as an illness is that somewhere in your brain, you actually know that  the way you are seeing the world is not entirely accurate, but you can't seem to find the mental and physical energy to surmount it. That in turn contributes to the downward spiral. It is like there is a dense fog clouding your ability to see clearly and you begin obsessing about small things. You convince yourself that you will make everything right one small thing at a time. When you realise you can't control the situation, you begin to resent yourself. You begin to panic. Your anxiety pushes people away. You spend so much energy focusing on being normal, that you can't be normal. It is like pushing your face into gladwrap. You start willing something bad to happen to yourself - I dunno - it is like you want to feel present, and at the same time punished for being such a drag. When I was walking to school over November and December I remember willing someone to assault me. To kick the depression out of me.

It was then that I realised I needed help. And it was the best decision I had made in months.

The truth is, I had been in that situation before. In fact I have suffered from depression for a long time. When I was a teenager I almost wore it as a badge of honour. In a strange way, depression became such a constant companion, that I was afraid to lose it. There was a twisted comfort in it. In my 20's I sought help for the first time. I used medication for 7 years (since 2002) and then decided I wanted out. I went off the medicine in 2009 in an effort to beat the illness myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn't need to rely on anything to be well.  Turns out that sometimes you can't make it on your own...

I don't want that black dog any more.

So I'm back on. Like a diabetic who needs insulin.

Pills and pop songs.

I don't care if it is just a placebo effect. I don't care if there are side effects. I don't care because sometimes living (surviving) is not enough.

So this one is for my family and friends. And those of you who have a black dog too. Sit down next to me.

Living is not Enough (Black Dog)
(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage)

This is the original 8 track demo recorded in November 2010. It is way too slow...

Living is not Enough (Black Dog)
(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage w/ Adams, King, and Rhoades)

This version of the song was recorded live in December 2010

Living is not Enough (Black Dog)
(Words: Andrew Savage. Music: Andrew Savage w/ Adams, King, Rhoades and Henderwood)

This version of the song was recorded live in March 2011

Living is not Enough

You keep a black dog following me
He's licking his lips
Making me his
And I would shake him now if I could
But it's not that easy
He's got his eyes on me

And the eyes I want are yours
Boring into my head
Keeping me here
So keep your hands close to me
Speaking into the wind
Chasing me home

He's chasing me home

Because when it all comes down
Living's not enough

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