Updated: Apr 14
Artwork by Alex Eckman-Lawn
Greetings dear reader.
While doing some house cleaning on the laptop to make room for recording the upcoming EP "Remnants", I stumbled onto an old blog post that I wanted to share. It feels like such a long time ago but it was one of the more pivotal transitions in my life.
Here it goes.
The story behind Chains.
Cristian Machado (Ex-Ill Nino) and yours truly during the making of the "Dead New World" album at the previously named "Sound War Studios" back in August of 2010.
Chains started out as an instrumental track written during my time working with Ill Nino on their “Dead New World” album. I suppose their zesty Latin flavor influenced the vibe of this track more so than any other on the album.
Looking back I’m realizing that this album is like an orphanage of weirdly eclectic songs. Again inspired by Nothingface, I remember reading an interview of the “skeletons” album where the writer said something along the lines of “It sounds like a song was written by a different band for each track on the record.” Something like that.
I was (and still am) super into that idea. I grew up with records like "Vulgar Display of Power" and Mr Bungle’s self titled. Albums that had a wide spectrum of diversity without losing the overall direction. That was my aim with this album as well. The overall direction in this case being visceral.
Anyway, I remember writing this song on a 2008 MacBook laptop I had received back in Arizona fresh from my schooling. Other than the plethora of band stickers (and the dust) it resembled some kind of shade of white and was my sketchbook for many of the earlier tunes that were written. At the time, the instrumental version was mostly midi instruments due to a lack of gear. There was some guitar. I believe it all actually started with this chord progression I was fiddling around with while in the live room in between recording. It was based in b and utilized a lot of open strings so it had (to my ear) a kind of wide “at the beach” feel to it. Something like “Wish you were Here” by Incubus but way darker.
(I’m seriously having trouble remembering exactly how I got my guitar down there..I had sold my car to pay the rent during my internship in Hoboken and finding work proved to be tricky but in my mind, I was moving forward and that’s all that mattered. It didn’t matter if I was sleeping on an air mattress for 7 months in a room rented from a complete stranger I had met on facebook. It didn’t matter that I was working 10-12 hour days on the graveyard shift for no pay. It didn’t matter. I was closer to the music than I had ever been growing up in New Hampshire. I was close to the music. And determined to keep it that way.
Working with Ill Nino was an honor as a fan and I am grateful beyond words for the friendships that were cultivated and the stories acquired as a result of our time together. That said, it was one of if not the most stressful work experience of my life hands down. Growing up I had done everything from washing dishes to paving (that sucked) to being an auditor for retail to pest control but nothing had been as stressful as working for this band ha ha ha.
In all seriousness, If I’m being honest, the experience though an amazing opportunity that I wouldn’t have traded for anything at the time also left a bad taste in my mouth about becoming an audio engineer.
Essentially I wasn’t ready for the situation I was getting into. I basically skipped steps and went from being an intern to assistant engineer where I got the reality of everything right in the teeth which in hindsight, was invaluable but also a rollercoaster emotionally.
Both the technical learning curves as well as managing the temperament of the artists was definitely intense. Despite the love I have for these guys and how thankful I am for the opportunity they provided, I do have to keep this writing honest. Let's just say that during the sessions, they became different people when it came time to push “record”.
On one hand, I can completely understand that as when you're working on music, it's a deeply personal thing and is held almost in the same regard as a parent would hold their children. Looking back, I feel like I tried my best to hold on to that understanding but the reality was that I simply wasn't prepared for the situation I was in. It's like any relationship where you've known people for a while in one aspect but as you get closer, you see another side to them.
In that sense, I am grateful to have been allowed to have had a window into their world during this time. Many lessons were learned.
After the record was finished, I decided that I’d rather keep being friends with them instead of being their employee and grow to hate them which would’ve been inevitable. Cristian, the vocalist is who I worked with primarily with tracking. Somehow, (and maybe it was the caffeine or the lack of sleep or the fact that I was broke and freaking out) I decided to start offering ideas while working with him on certain vocal harmonies and was surprised when he started trying them out and ultimately accepting some which was an honor. You won’t see any songwriting credit in my name on the album but at least I know they’re there. ( See the songs “How can I live” and “God is only for the Dead” )
Looking back on this, I think about the level of trust that Cristian had to not only allow me to offer musical input, but to even accept some of it. I still can't believe it sometimes when I think back to it. I also think "Man, I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to start chiming in offering suggestions." It was just a feeling I had to respond to. Maybe that was presumptuous of me but it was something I could not ignore. I think partly because I knew how much I was struggling as an engineer in the studio that I was elated to be able to make a contribution in the way I know how best to do. Those days made all the rest of what was happening during that time so worth it.
Killing You, Killing Me
The last song that vocals were recorded to was “Killing You, Killing Me”. I remember Cristian coming into the studio and saying “Yo I’m on a plane to LAX in 90 minutes kid, we’ve got one hour to come up with lyrics and record this song."
“Fuck yeah man! Giddy up!” Is all I could say ha ha.
And so, he and I sat down and started scribbling out last minute lyrics and vocal patterns for the tune. Seeing as this song was all screaming, it would go much faster so I remember having warm fuzzies from that memory.
Feel free to check out the song here
Anyway anyway, back to chains
I had this little chord progression and latin rhythm section piece and though I really liked how it turned out, I was curious to see how the syncopated latin rhythms would sound with furious double bass.
Then I started thinking about ways to contrast that pretty sounding chord progression so I wound up churning out some Cannibal Corpse inspired riffs along side more groove laden and syncopated parts.
From there it became way more “metalized” resulting in a “Part 2” of sorts. The first one was originally supposed to be on the record but morphed into what you hear now as “Unguarded”. This “Part 2” as it was referred to at the time eventually became what you know as the song “Chains”
There were waaaaaaaay more clean vocals on the demo version as I was getting caught up in the Nino’s vibe at the studio but decided against it as it would be too much of a departure from my original vision of the Davola project. This song evolved over time as did many of the others, adopting more death metal elements to prevent anyone interpreting this as a nu metal song.
...That's what I was afraid of at least ha ha.
Also I love Gojira……….If you take a listen, I think you’ll hear what I mean. I remember finishing up at my attempt of tracking Laz's bass parts for the record and being over caffeinated, under slept and just super stressed out. I remember telling him something along the lines of "I need to go scream. I'll be right back" as I exited the control room to plunk down on the couch in their then live room to assault my microphone as intensely as I possibly could. I think that's where I started laying down some of the rough Ideas for the verses.
The lyrics are always a fragmented process with me. Often I’ll immediately have a few lines here and there while writing but it takes time for me to really flush out what the aim of the song is.
Essentially it’s about dying. I'll go more in depth about the actual subject matter in a future post.
Feel free to check out “Chains” here if you haven't already. You can actually grab it for free if you hop on the mailing list.
Thanks for reading