Overthinking the Playlist

overthink much?Creating set lists. Whew! what a load of work. In a few days I’ll bust out a set of live music, but I wondered (to myself, but still loud enough to confuse the people sitting beside me on the train) how do I decide on song order?

This can’t be simple. That just won’t do. So let’s overthink it.

At first, I simply ranked the songs’ “goodness” but it was not enough to create order among the 14 tracks. So I added a few more categories: tempo, mood, dynamics, melody, lyrics, and playability—from those I derived the average score and the median score for each song. My initial plan was to use the average and/or median scores to determine which order I should play the songs in. But those metrics weren’t as descriptive as I’d hoped. So I decided to create weighted averages for the dynamics, tempo, and playability scores; my logic being that these three metrics somehow represented the three most memorable characteristics of a song.

So I have all these numbers, but what was I going to actually do with them? How was I suppose to arrange a list of numbers to translate into a cohesive and enjoyable set of live music? I began by plotting the numbers with the songs in a pretty random order. The graph did not look like a road that I wanted to travel on. And that pretty much became my standard for a good set list: would I want to drive a car across the graph of its associated scores?

I finally decided to choose “tempo weighted” as the most crucial metric. I did this mainly because the variance in these scores was highest, i.e., there were higher peaks and lower valleys than in other categories.

Next, I needed to decide on how i wanted my “road” to actually look. I chose to start the set off mid-to-high tempo and sustain for a couple of songs. Then slow things down and then back up to mid-tempo, and then slow things down again. The set would end with a climb upward to the highest tempo song. Here is the result:

it's like a rolley-coaster for my songs!

click to embiggen

All in all, I think it’s close to arbitrary but it always feels nice to have some reason behind “big” decisions like this — just come to my show already!. Thank you.

the empire never ended is…

tEnEMany, many years ago (god, I am getting old), I read “The Futurological Congress,” by Stanislaw Lem. It was an instant favorite. After that, I absorbed every Lem book I could find and was constantly pleased. Then, in an old interview I found online, Lem claimed that he was just rehashing ideas that Philip K. Dick had already covered.

And so PKD entered into my life. “The Man in the High Castle” was first. Then short stories by the hundreds. Then, like a catch phrase that you never knew existed but is totally awesome, came “Ubik,” and that’s when the genius, power, and creativity hit me. This was my new Jorge Luis Borges. This was magical realism disguised by sci-fi. I was in a new Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and it was as real and as pure as anything I’d ever experienced. It was maddening and confusing. The world of Ubik is equal parts “The Running Man” and Jean Baudrillard.

And then, everything else followed. I devoured every story, film, & biography I could swallow. Well, nearly everything. I still haven’t gotten up the courage to read these newly published non-sci-fi works… whatever. sue me.

And then a few years ago I wrote this song, “fake world, nyc” whose first few verses seemed to be about feeling stuck in a relationship where you are isolated but feel helpless to change things. After a few attempts at polishing it, I realized I was singing about “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Completely unintentionally I had re-created the world that Deckard lives in… but it was my life that I was describing. It was eerie, and one of those elusive pure moments of inspiration that artists live for.
After a complete overhaul, the song was completed and recorded for my 2009 album Simulation of an Artist.

But, that moment stuck with me and drove me to write (and to read) more.

The tumultuous relationship that was ending at the time—together with the idea of writing about my favorite sci-fi—pushed me to write other PDK-inspired songs. And then, it hit me, this is a concept. For an album. A “concept album” as it were.

tEnE 2That was the beginning. From that idea sprang forth a thousand words and a hundred songs—thirteen of which comprise The Empire Never Ended.

There are hundreds of hours, millions of gublots (a unit I just made up) of effort, and several garbage pails full of love, that went into these songs. (i think the secret is that these songs are actually more a part of me than PKD, but i’ll never tell…) so I promise that i’ll eventually write more about each of them.

Thanks for listening and for reading.

did i ever tell you guys about the poop song i wrote?

it’s kind of a ballad to the underdog. the boy with feces on his fingertips:

i do believe that these words may strike a chord with many a listener.
whether they be a down-trodden misfit that fell through the cracks of society’s crack or perhaps just a little boy with a whiff of butt pickles on his breath. this one goes out to anyone who has ever been lost in brown town:

the boy with feces on his fingertips by ieatpants

there once was this boy
who was all alone
he’d been abandoned
by his family and friends
his only friend
came from his butt
his only friends
were filled with corn and nuts

he played with his poo
you see it was his best friend
he played with his poo
he always had a finger up his rear end

and the best poo comes from fancy food
that’s what he wanted
and the best food makes the friendliest doodoo
that’s what he needed

so he found some cash
working at a car wash
he got this job
washing cars

and now there’s poop
in the soap
all the cars are lined up down the road
there’s poop in the soap
and all the cars smell like a commode
there’s poop in the soap
the people come from miles around
there’s poop in the soap
every car and truck is painted brown

so it turns out
that no one minds
they all think he’s hilarious
they love the boy with feces on his fingertips

he plays with his poo
it’s his best friend
he plays with his poo
always has a finger up his rear end

now, do you guys remember that movie with marlon brando?
he asks this girl to stick her fingers up his butt.
now, that was really weird.
but, pretty sexy movie, regardless.

but you know he’s kind of like a huge star
to be sort of just throwing in this weird butthole fingering scene

he played with his poo
you see it was his best friend
he played with his poo
always had a finger up his rear end

yet more demo tracks for ‘the empire never ended’

so i’ve conveniently uploaded these demos to this soundcloud set:

there are a total of 9 tracks and i’m estimating that i’ll have 4 more very soon.
the release will most likely be pushed to 2012, but i want to give the songs the tender love and care that they deserve.
also i have a day job (at least for 2 more weeks, that is) so i don’t have nearly as much time as i would like to spend on mixing and mastering.

whatevs. no more excuses. rock over and out.

child of mars

another hit song about a philip k. dick story!

this one is called “child of mars” and it’s loosely based on/inspired by the pkd novel Martian Time-Slip

child of mars – demo by ieatpants

one of my favorite things about this novel is the fucked up way that pkd rationalizes this autistic child’s condition. he bestows some god-like power to him, and then he fucks up his whole world.

deep shit man. we’re all in it.

the empire never ended

“the empire never ended” is the self titled demo track from the upcoming ieatpants album the empire never ended.”
the empire never ended – demo by ieatpants

the title refers to a line from the book VALIS, in which pkd hypothesized that history had been stopped in the 1st century A.D., and that “the Empire never ended” (referring to the Roman Empire). He saw Rome as the pinnacle of materialism and despotism, which, after forcing the Gnostics underground, had kept the population of Earth enslaved to worldly possessions.* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick from Wikipedia]

the album contains songs inspired by philip k. dick’s life and stories.

i am currently mixing and recording overdubs for the rest of the songs.

i will post demos here and then release the whole album on iTunes.

twinless twin

i’ve the first demo track from the upcoming ieatpants album “the empire never ended.”

this song is called “twinless twin”

all of the songs on the album are inspired by philip k. dick’s life and stories.

twinless twin by ieatpants

Philip Kindred Dick and his twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick, were born six weeks prematurely on December 16, 1928 in Chicago to Dorothy Kindred Dick, and Joseph Edgar Dick who worked for the United States Department of Agriculture. Jane died six weeks later on January 26, 1929. The death of Philip’s twin sister profoundly affected his writing, relationships, and every aspect of his life, leading to the recurrent motif of the “phantom twin” in many of his books. (from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick)

the survivor of this type of early twin loss is called a twinless twin.

i am currently mixing and recording overdubs for the rest of the songs.
i will post demos here and then release the whole album on iTunes.