This wasn't supposed to be my 11th album. It was supposed to be my 12th. But then the world got hit with COVID-19 and the album I had in mind for #11 took a backseat. That one will come out later, assuming the virus (or something else) doesn't kill me first. But when so many of the people who are likely to listen to my stuff are stuck in lockdown and some of them are getting sick, a standard Derek Brink rock album about girls and how my day-to-day life is so "difficult" just didn't seem very relevant. So I chose to work on this one instead.
"Departure" is a completely instrumental album. I've never done that before, but I've had it in my head to do it for a long time. I chose the title "Departure" not because I'm going anywhere, but because this is very different from everything else I've done. I've had that title for the album since 2009. I've been stockpiling music for it for even longer than that. Some of these tracks date back to the 1990s! There's a chance that if you've been around me as a bass player for a long time you've heard me play at least one or two of these as bass solos in the past. Now they're all fleshed out, full songs.
Writing instrumental songs is different from writing stuff with lyrics. So many of my songs depend on the lyric being the "important" or "interesting" part and the music is just a means to an end to get my words out there. Can't do that on this album. An instrumental song needs to stand on its own and something ELSE has to be "important" or "interesting." For many of these it's the bass guitar that fills that role. For many of them it isn't.
It's also a deeply personal experience to write an instrumental track. You're using sound other than your voice or words to communicate a feeling. You're expressing yourself with no expressions. Each one of these songs came from something inside of me that needed to come out. Each one carries an emotion or a feeling that I would've had difficulty describing in words, so I kept my mouth shut. You'd think there wouldn't be a lot to say about instrumental pieces, but the truth is there's so MUCH to say it's impossible to know where to start. I've established a precedent of writing pretty thoroughly about the music I make, so I'll try to write a few words to go along with each song on this one too...but know that whatever I say won't be sufficient and there's a much deeper part of me that you can only hear in the notes. Or maybe in the space between them.
I hope you enjoy this album. And ultimately I hope you come to think of it as a single work, rather than individual tracks. But you probably won't. That's okay. Music speaks to you in whatever way it does and you're not wrong to think whatever you think. But it makes me happy to think of this as a single piece. Like I finally wrote my concerto.
More than anything, I hope you're happy, healthy, and that the social distance isn't too hard for you. I hope we all get to see each other soon.
"Gathering" is an introduction to the world we'll be living in on this album for the next 40 minutes. (God that's pretentious. It's hard to write about this kind of music without being pretentious.) It's a simple track. A welcoming track. A track that's a little bright with a little darkness under the surface. It says "hello" and "enjoy your stay" but also says "it's not going to be a walk in the park."
I've had this one in my repertoire since the mid 00s. I've used it as an opening track at gigs in the past, in a couple different forms. I'm glad it's in this format. I've always liked playing it. There are a couple weird chords in there!
The Cycle – Part 1: Grief
I wrote "The Cycle" as a single piece in 2014 and I haven't known what to do with it ever since. But every time I sit down at a piano (or keyboard) I play it. I didn't even have the title until very recently--it took me years to choose which words represented what's going on inside me when I play it.
When I approached this album I knew I was finally going to have a place to play "The Cycle" but I didn't want to do it as the straightforward 10-minute piano piece I'd demoed at home in the past. I opted to split it into its separate parts. And to keep it simple and short. So that's why there are four parts. And I've spaced them out so that the songs that precede and follow them all "make sense" within the framework of what I'm expressing in the "cycle" of these songs. That's why in the introduction I wrote for the album I said I hope you look at the whole thing as one piece. There's a lot happening here.
Each part is named more or less after an emotion I'm trying to convey. This one is called "Grief." You can probably figure that out. I consider this the "main theme" of the whole thing. It was written during a period where I was trying to figure things out and thought "it can't get any worse." Look over my albums that came out after 2014 to see if that held up...
Deeper Than Oceans
There is a lot I could say about this song. I've played and played and played it for a very long time and "Deeper Than Oceans" has always been the title. The short version is that I'm using that title to refer to love. The longer answer would delve deep into what KIND of love I'm talking about. I won't subject you to that. And besides, even my own theory on that changes the more I play it. This is one of those songs that came from somewhere very deep inside of me (deeper than an ocean) that I have trouble explaining.
I've been playing this as a bass solo since the 1990s. At least 25 years. No kidding. I played it a lot at a church I used to attend before rehearsals and between things. So much so that about a decade after I'd stopped going to that church I ended up working with one of the sound engineers from there again and he asked me to play it because he hadn't heard it in so long. I obliged.
In my heart I'll always love this as a bass solo. But in my head I've always heard drums and some light chording behind it. I went with my head on this one. And I think my heart led me to do it.
"Burn" as a title could refer to a few things. A fire, sure. Or an emotional burning. An eternal burning. All of those? Probably. But regardless I think the results of any kind of burning leaves the same charred mess.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that I'm very obviously wearing one of my influences on my sleeve on this one. As you either know or at least suspect, I've been a Rush fan for most of my life. So much so that in the last year I bought the Geddy Lee signature Fender bass. I'm playing it all over the record, but I think it most plainly sounds "Geddyish" on this song. Particularly because of the bass fills and how I constructed them. And the guitar part is kind of Alex Lifeson-like. And the drums...well...no one will ever approach what Neil Peart could do. Let's just pretend I didn't bring up the drums.
The Cycle – Part Two: Descent
Part two of "The Cycle" is a little easier to explain now that I've already written all the background stuff on the first part. Go read that if you haven't.
The subtitle of "Descent" is kind of a dual reference. In the first part, it refers to what's happening in the music. The music is a downward, descending, not quite recognizable scale of arpeggios. It's just plain walking down the keyboard until I hit the right D-Chord.
In the second part, "Descent" follows "Grief." You start with grief, then descend and fall for a bit. Heading toward part three...
This one has been around since the 90s as well. I was playing a version of it in a jam project as far back as 1995. This might be the oldest piece on the album...and yet I'd never formally recorded it before now!
The song has had a bunch of different titles over the years. When I first wrote it I called it "Amadeus" not because it had anything to do with Mozart, but because that's the kind of thing a 15 year old who's trying to sound smart would name something. It's had a few names since then. But now I'm calling it "Pneuma" because I think that comes closest to describing what's going on for me in the song.
The word "Pneuma" is an old Greek word. The kind of Greek that they spoke at the time of Christ. In that day it meant "breath" or "spirit" in religious contexts. (It might still in modern day Greek for all I know. There is no way anyone could possibly find that out to make themselves sound more credible.) Whatever else I could say about this one, I think it's an expression of my spirit. Of the air I breathe. At least in the slower parts.
The aggressive section might be too over the top with the noodly guitar solo and whatnot. Or it might be just what it always needed. I'll leave you to judge that. I like it. But I'm not you.
I have an odd obsession that I don't think I've ever revealed before... I like to record rain storms and listen to them later.
I know. Weird.
But sometimes it leads to me writing stuff. I like to play the sound of rain and pick up an instrument to play over it. Going into this album I decided to play some rain and just record whatever came out. "Myth" came out. This isn't a first-take or anything. There's about a 20 minute version on my hard drive of me just trying stuff. But I ended up liking this melody, so it's what I kept.
I chose the word "Myth" as a title because the spooky nature of this piece suggests something dark and foreboding that is implied but never seen. We're all afraid of the old legends. The monster we don't know is there, but that we DO know IS there. Writing and listening to this one, I can almost see Christopher Lee lurking around, manipulating us all into the shadow of the Wicker Man. Or maybe Bigfoot walking between the trees. Or a big sea monster hanging out in a lake where you'd normally think "this is a great spot to fish!" I spooked myself out a little working on this track.
You'll either get this one and like it or get this one and skip it. This is the one track on the album that might bore some of you. And that's okay. For the kind of people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing that kind of person likes. I'm that kind of person. This is my sort of thing.
Mostly for thematic purposes on the album it seemed necessary to represent fear and foreboding. If nothing else, dig those David-Gilmour-ish guitar chords drifting in and out of the track between the Gene Simmons echoing low-notes, man.
After you've been in the spooky, dreary, rainy, dark places, you need something to lift you up a little. You need something to step in and intervene. You need an "Intervention." So that's what's going on here and why it's such a left turn from the last one.
This is a fun, upbeat sounding track that's not typical of any of my writing and I don't really know where it came from. I know we did a version of it in my old Americana/Rock band "Blue Tattoo" though. And I liked it there. But the band fell apart while we were in the midst of recording sessions and it never was completed. I've had it sitting around wanting to use it ever since.
And yes, all of the clapping hands on it were done by me, one track at a time. It was fun. And maddening.
The Cycle – Part 3: Acceptance
Preceded by "Grief" and "Descent" we arrive at "Acceptance." Which I think is a misunderstood word. People seem to mix up "acceptance" with "improvement." You HAVE to accept your status before things CAN get better...but it doesn't always follow that they actually DO. You can accept any reality but still be stuck with that reality.
A sweetly sad little melody heading toward the end of the record. The title of the track probably reveals most of it.
But I will add that whenever I'm called upon to give a toast I always toast, "...to absent friends." And I do that because that's the toast that Frank N. Furter offers before dinner in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
And I'll also add that this one was one of the most difficult ones to mix, logistically for some reason. I wrote it specifically for this album in the last couple of weeks. The newer stuff is often harder to capture as a vision. But I think it got there.
This is another very old piece. A lot of the older stuff is bass-driven. I used to write a lot more on bass.
"Lectio Divina" is a phrase popular in Catholic theology meaning "Divine Reading." I'm not Catholic. I just used to read a lot of books about St. Francis of Assisi and that phrase came up a lot. I adopted it for the title to this because it put me in mind of something Divine when I wrote it. Possibly because in order to play it, you need to play it on two different basses in different tunings at once, and that had to come from somewhere outside of me. (Of course this is easier to do in a multitrack situation than it was when I used to play it live with two basses hanging around my neck piled on top of each other.)
Not a lot to add here. I just always like playing this one and it's nice to have a recorded version, finally.
The Cycle – Part 4: Coalescence
The culmination of the "Cycle" tracks sees the three previous melodies combine into one. Grief, descent, and acceptance intermingle and you're left to decipher what they all mean together. A few new parts interweave. It becomes bigger and more complicated than the pieces could've been on their own. It gets loud and messy...
"Coalescence" is a good word for that. It's a term for when two or more elements combine to form a whole. That's what's happening here musically. That's what's happening emotionally. Notice that it ends with the same notes as the ending of "Acceptance" and with a major chord at the very end. You can think about that a while if you want.
Working on "The Cycle" was a very rewarding process for me, going back six years. I hope you enjoy the result.
"Coronation" was the first track I recorded for the project and it's the last one on the album. Go figure.
A "coronation" of course typically refers to the crowning of a king or queen. It carries with it a sense of regality and pomp and circumstance. I felt that it represented this song well as a word, but I don't really think I'm crowning anyone anything.
This one's all over the place. Distortion and reverb effects. A Mellotron choir. Lots of crash cymbals. It's the culmination of everything else you hear on "Departure." The final curtain. The closing ceremony.
I hope you liked it.
I played everything but I want to credit my list of influences, some of whom are obvious but some you might not realize.
During the process of making this album over the years I was inspired by the following musicians/bands (in Alphabetical Order):
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead