Today we continue our series of posts featuring the exclusive premiere of video from GSW’s reunion shows in 2010, lovingly shot and edited by Mike Wren. As with our last posts, God Street Wine guitarist Lo Faber tells the tale of the song in the video. Here’s Lo’s take on Electrocute as well as the video of GSW performing the tune at the Gramercy Theatre on July 9, 2010.
“Electrocute” is the earliest-written God Street Wine song. I wrote it in the spring of my senior year in high school, 1984. At that time I was very much under the influence of David Byrne and Talking Heads, and, through them, of Brian Eno, especially his solo albums “Another Green World” and “Before and After Science.” Check out those beautiful albums, simultaneously exploring sonic experimentation and thoughtful songwriting, if you want a deep musical experience.
[Photo by Jeremy Gordon]
So my school, Princeton Day School, allowed you to take your spring semester of senior year to do some creative project. I performed that spring in an adaptation of “Waiting for Godot” and also wrote a one-act play of my own. I loved not having regular classes for the first time in my life and was feeling very creative, also doing a lot of oil painting at that time. And I wrote two interesting songs, “Electrocute” and, shortly after that, “Morning Cigarettes.”
Both songs were based on this cool bass sound I made with my stepfather’s Gibson SG, a Boss octave pedal and a Dunlop Crybaby wah. They were also demoed using an interesting home recording technique. Some of you know that many early GSW tunes were written and demoed with my old Fostex 4-track cassette recorder. But this was before even that technology. So I multi tracked by using two home cassette decks, simply bouncing back and forth between them. In other words I’d record bass and drum machine, then play that back while adding guitar and recording the total onto a second deck, and so on and so forth back and forth. Of course it was noisy as hell, but nonetheless sounded really cool, at least to me at the time.
Both “Electrocute” and “Morning Cigarettes” were about the idea of drug use, in different ways. Although many GSW audience members seem not to believe this, I have never been very into drugs of any sort, and aside from the occasional Jameson (and back in the day, lots of nicotine), usually like to keep my head clear and “natural.” In high school, of course, like everyone I tried a few things, so in these two songs you hear youthful me trying to make sense of why people wanted to voluntarily alter their brain chemistry. Electrocute uses the idea of a character who gets high from applying electric shocks, possibly in conjunction with other chemical forms of stimulus. It uses some impressionistic imagery to convey his altered state of mind. It also contains some phrases I heard real people use, like a somewhat altered line originally spoken by a close friend of mine & Tom’s, Jeff K., about “liquids and solids combining.”
Musically “Electrocute” is very simple, just a bass line in D, really, which is why when God Street Wine started playing the song, we explored it in quite a number of different arrangements. Initially we played it much faster than originally conceived. Then when Howard Collins was in the band we developed a Latin-funk version that modulated to a minor key, etc. Aaron also sometimes sang this improv gospel sort of outro. Finally at some point we “resimplified” it and shifted the tempo down to match my 1984 cassette demo. I have noticed that different listeners can be fiercely partial to one version or another, but to me they are all good; “Electrocute” is really just a blank slate for the band to improv on.
The version we did at the Gramercy Theater in 2010 was slow and quite true to my original demo, although of course that demo did not have any long jams or solos in it. To me this song should have a lonely, desperate feeling, as if you are out late, it’s cold and you’re not quite warmly dressed, you’re in a strange city in what appears to be a dangerous neighborhood, things are weird and you can’t figure out exactly why.
Upcoming God Street Wine Shows:
August 9 – TRI Studios (Free Webcast)
August 10 & 11 – Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley CA
August 16, 17 & 18 – Gramercy Theatre, NYC NY
Thanks to Lo for sharing the story behind the tune and Mike for his work on the video.