welcome to the interzone [disquiet0110-wsb100]

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This New York Post headline (“I Could Have Saved Him”) screamed at me from a newsstand on 5th Avenue and 9th Street in Brooklyn a couple days after receiving this week’s challenge, and I couldn’t shake it. As the weekend closed, I looked at the front pages of all the other papers in town with this challenge in mind, including a couple hyperlocal rags (NY Times, NY Observer, NY Daily News, Brooklyn Eagle, Park Slope Courier, etc…), but no other story stuck with me like this one, falling lock-step into the context of this Junto challenge celebrating the 100th birthday of William S. Burroughs.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s heroin dealer has convinced himself that he could have prevented Hoffman’s death had he been shooting up with him. The brief interview has overtones of a Burroughs scene and, for sure, this guy – a jazz musician with a penchant for junk – is a character straight out of the Naked Lunch Interzone.

I cut words from a lot of the sentences to fit the flow of the song, but this didn’t seem to violate the spirit of the assignment. Burroughs used so many ellipses in his writing that it’s hard to tell if he ever published a single sentence in its logical order. His style gave me some air cover.

Put a simple, dumb rock song together tonight to prop up the words. Psyched to get it in just under the wire. One live guitar track, one live synth and a vocal (one-take with one punch-in) over drum/bass loops arranged in Acid. I’ve been cycling through E-G-A and E-D-A progressions recently, and this track runs around those while capo’ed on the second fret for the D-form E-chord.

The “problem” with tabloids like the Post, though, is that we would never have gotten a cover story on a living Philip Seymour Hoffman with the headline “We Should Save Him Today.” We only get the rubberneck aftermath lead-if-it-bleeds crimson journalism. The Interzone, indeed. Hi ho.

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LYRICS

3. “I could’ve saved him.” (x4)

14. You wouldn’t know he was an Oscar winner.
10. When asked if he had ever sold Hoffman drugs
5. He said “If I was with him, it wouldn’t have happened.”
7. He said he had known the 46-year-old “Capote” star for about a year.

3. “I could’ve saved him.” (x4)

8. Hoffman injected
18. He claims he last saw Hoffman — high — in October.
11. “When we got together, we talked about books.
4. “If I knew he was in town, I would’ve said, ‘Hey, let’s make an AA meeting.’

3. “I could’ve saved him.” (x4)

6. “Not under my guard.”
17. The star’s final, four-month struggle against drugs.
12. And art.
9. 73 bags of heroin found in a Greenwich Village apartment.

15. He loved his kids. (x4)

3. “I could’ve saved him.” (x4)

13. “He was a normal guy.
2. “He was my friend.
16. “I offer my condolences to his family.
1. “I didn’t kill him — and I could’ve saved him.”

3. “I could’ve saved him,” jazz musician and admitted junkie Robert Vineberg said, wearing a gray prison jumpsuit and hunching pensively at a red table in a Rikers Island jail visiting area.

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RIG

guitar:
Jolie (Gibson ES335 dot reissue, custom peekamoose.com electronics), Earthquaker The Warden compressor, Ibanez Screamer TS808, tc electronic Flashback delay (tape setting), Strymon BlueSky reverberator, VOX AC15 (mic’ed via a Sennheiser MD412-ii)

synth:
Sunrizer for iPad (HT @shredderghost)

vocals:
AKG C3000B condenser mic, Lexicon rack delay

drum/bass:
samples (one shots & loops)

interface:
MOTU 828mk2 interface, Acid Pro 7.0, Windows XP

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PROJECT

Step 1:
Take the lead article from your local newspaper and write down the first 18 sentences on separate slips of paper — or, if you prefer, extract the first 18 lines on separate strips of paper.

Step 2:
Label these pieces of text from 1 to 18.

Step 3:
Either read them out loud or use text-to-speech and record them.

Step 4:
Construct the vocal of a song using the material. Sequence the vocal in the following order. Note that text element 3 serves as the chorus and text element 15 serves as the bridge. The remaining elements are in random sets of four, with no repetition.

3 3 3 3
14 10 5 7
3 3 3 3
8 18 11 4
3 3 3 3
6 17 12 9
15 15 15 15
3 3 3 3
13 2 16 1
3 3 3 3

Add music, whatever instrumentation you choose, to flesh this out into a proper song.

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More on this 110th Disquiet Junto project (“Celebrate the 100th birthday of that old cut-up, William S. Burroughs”)

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