When I became Violet Mice, and writing songs to be played by “Violet Mice,” it wasn’t as if I’d just picked up the guitar that fateful day on a New Orleans rooftop and began writing songs. I’d been writing for years before that, under various names, with various bands, but the oldest form of this was called Artiste (well, technically it was “The Mazz,” my nickname in middle through high school, but once in Artiste I made all the “Mazz” songs “Artiste” songs, so whatevz).
One day I will write a much more detailed and terrifying description of Artiste and all the other strange bands I was in/called myself, but now I’m focusing on certain songs from them. See, when I was putting together songs for It Would Be Nice, I was looking through the dense catalogue (phht) of old songs, and saw a couple of them that I remember liking. Upon re-listening to them, they were terrible, all recorded at the worst times of voice-cracking puberty, and vaguely unlistenable. But if I strained to listen through all that crap, I could hear that some of these songs were actually pretty good!
One song was from the glam-rock band I had in 9th grade, The MacArthur Phenomenon (ooh, more on them later, too).
And the other, Little Viking, was re-discovered when I found the lyrics I had written in 10th grade Biology in an old box. I did a demo of it back in those days for the band Droog, but it was never expanded upon. Sadly, I can’t find that demo right now, but it might be somewhere…
This trend of finding old songs and making them new kept going into the writing of O, Zeppelin!. For the songs there, I dug even deeper into the back catalogue and pulled a riff I had written a really really long time ago, and recorded onto my trusty dictaphone. Throughout high school, I wrote at least four different sets of lyrics for this riff and chorus, the chorus being the only set piece of writing: “If someone said to the Clouds, ‘go away,’ it would be Me & You, Me & You.” It’s incredibly embarassing, but at the time, I’d written that lyric on the day I discovered that my entire grade had started smoking pot. How stunned my virgin mind was! Ha.
Anyways, three other songs were from Artiste/Mazz days, and they were actually on some of the “albums” I made back then. “You Ain’t True” and “Don’t Burn Me” were on the album “Lust for Vitriol” and “As Far Away As I Can Be” was on an EP called “kiss me, you bastard.” If you can’t tell, Artiste was all about being offensive. If you could see the album covers, you’d never talk to me again.
As you can see, they sounded terrible, and As Far Way was really really slow. When I decided to re-record it for Zep, I initially was staying faithful to the original arrangement, but it was way too long, way too boring, and my performance left much to be desired (I was bored with the song!) What to do! On some frigid-ass night in Chicago, waiting at the Damen stop for a loop train, I started to sing the song, but I started to sing it really fast so I could dance and keep warm. I discovered that not only did it keep me warm, it sounded a lot better fast. This discovery saved me from my original plan, which was to run the slow As Far Away backwards and call it “The Zeppelin Crashes!” No, thank you.
Don’t Burn Me is actually the same as it was from 10th grade, but I increased the volume of the beginning and added drums. After this seemed to work pretty well, I threw two songs from days of ole on the album, Thing Of Heaven and Fucked Into Index, the latter of which I renamed “The Zeppelin in the Air.” These were two good songs, but they sort of didn’t really make sense with all the new songs, and I felt ashamed that I caved to such a lazy tactic. They stayed on the album until I went home for winter break, where I wrote Pig Myths Part I, Sron Song, and Piano Song, which used a really old riff from a 10th grade Mazz album called “The Sun Has Feelings Too,” called Kayla, and a xylophone tune I suddenly remembered writing in freshman year. With these new songs, I had enough new songs, and Thing of Heaven & Fucked Into Index were history.
The trend has since petered out, more or less, since the Artiste songs that are worth resuscitating are few and far between. Sometimes, though a riff from very long ago will return, such as on Caesura or Let Me Let You In on Violence. The riffs for these songs come from the Artiste period, too, but were never recorded in their time. Caesura’s riff was originally intended for my opus, “The Story of Blake,” some ridiculous Glam-Opera that was never worth finishing. The song it comes from was called “If You Want My Rock & Roll.” Phhhht! T-Rex I am not!
Most likely the last (or maybe penultimate) song from Artiste that I will re-use is going to be on the next album Honeybear, and it is called Sun, Like A Trooper. That song hails from the last “single” I deemed worthy of Artiste, called “A Triumphant Return.” That return has seemingly diminished. Oh well.
Artiste and my other old projects are very long-winded things that will be revisited later, when I have the energy to dig through those silly things again. Phew!