Tag Archives: prog rock

“Angels In the Oort Cloud” – a new album by Johnny Unicorn

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If you’re reading this before August 20th, please watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQT1FTmI7T0

And purchase the album here: https://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/angels-in-the-oort-cloud

A history of “Angels In the Oort Cloud”

Recording began on a hot Summer day in 2012 at Alex Hamel’s house in Grand Rapids, MI. I arranged for Alex, Jason Campbell (on drums), and myself to spend a day recording drum tracks for four songs that never made it onto Sweet Edith Manton (due to their original lyrics not being so good), and a series of drum improvisations that I would later compile into one song. That day, at least two of us were sick (I can’t remember which two). Alex’s studio wasn’t complete yet, so we had to record in a cramped living room. It took forever to set up, because we were moving very slowly, plus we had to stop frequently to pour more orange juice. After a brief period of reminding Jason how the songs went, we recorded the songs. When we finished with the songs, we had approximately forty-five minutes left to record as much improvised material as possible. Alex and I played bass and guitar respectively as a way to direct the improvisations musically. When we were done I went back to Seattle.

“Angels” – I took the improvised drum tracks, erased the scratch bass and guitar tracks, and took what I considered to be the best parts, and arranged them in as musical a way as possible, overdubbing new guitar and bass as I did it. Lyrics were written and rewritten, sung and resung multiple times. Naomi, Eric, Max and Ashley were added to the mix, and then it became the song as you hear it. The lyrics are vaguely about a space battle between humans and a very mean god, because why not?

“Creation” – This song was originally called “Art.” When I wrote this song in 2001, the melody was the same as the guitar part, and the lyrics were terrible. I changed the melody to something a little more melodious, and fashioned the lyrics to be an epilogue of “Angels.”

“LCD” – This lyrics to this song used to be a meaningless collection of nonsequitors and awful rhymes. I reconfigured them to be about angels watching you through your computer screen. Creepy, eh? The idea of an all-knowing deity has always creeped me out a bit, hence, this song.

“Nebraska” – This song is even older (written in 1998). I reformed the melody, and changed the lyrics, but kept the title. The song was originally about a trip I went on as a teenager, during which I attended a dance and slow-danced with someone from Nebraska. I wanted to keep the chorus, but change the content of the lyrics so that it was about angels. It was a bit of a stretch, but I have no problem with it, and neither should you.

“Floaters” – Here is another repurposed song. I wrote this in 1998 also, but didn’t like the lyrics. So it’s about angels now. This time the angels are coming down to kill the protagonist, who then becomes an angel. When I was a child, I used to think my eye floaters were angels (and not because anyone told me that, I just assumed it was true). When rewriting the song, I imagined seeing floating beings off in the distance and being attacked by one of them. It’s a horrifying thought. Hopefully that translates in the song. You can find video of me playing this song with my old band before I was Johnny Unicorn and before it was rewritten.

“Inertia” – This is yet another song from 1998. The lyrics were only slightly changed, but a long instrumental section was added to the middle. I went to the local music store to rent tubular bells and marimba for this piece.

I could not have done this album without the musicians involved: Jason, Naomi, Max, Eric, and Ashley
or the sound people: Alex and Jesse
or the people I borrowed / rented instruments from: Kennelly Keys, Phideaux Xavier, Jeff Watkins, Jesse Mercury
or the people whose musical ideas found their way inevitably onto the recording: all the musicians on the recording, Michael Bouman, and Jamie Grefe
Also, thanks to Chris Barrios for adding input to the live versions of two of the songs.
if I don’t stop now, I’ll just end up thanking everyone, since everything is connected and we are all one.

I spent a lot of time not making income in order to complete this album, so if you like it, consider purchasing it now. Do it before August 20th and an image of your countenance will be indelibly printed on the inner jacket of the CD package:
https://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/angels-in-the-oort-cloud

Add an extra $10 and I’ll sing your name!

Thanks for paying attention to me,
Johnny Unicorn

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Summer’s End Progressive Rock Festival 2010

Lydney, U.K., October 8th-10th

The Phideaux all star band arrived in Bristol, UK, after four days of grueling rehearsal in the salt mines of New York City. We gathered all of our heavy objects that we brought, and took them to the vans, which carried us on the two hour journey from Bristol to Hogwarts. Once there, we disembarked the vans, said goodbye to our charming Bristolian driver (who had tried to convince us during the drive that every object in Bristol of any significance was the most famous object of that type in the world). We were booked to stay in apartments in the middle of the Whitemead forest. We were not allowed to go into the forest on account of the high concentration of wood sprites and goblins this time of year. But we were allowed to go to the festival in the nearby town of Lydney, to watch the bands perform, and see what the audience was like, and to prepare mentally for our own performance, which was to be on the last day of the festival.

We watched lots of progressive rock bands perform. There were so many that I can scarcely remember any of it. I remember a humorous performance by a band called Defenders of the Realm, which was a supergroup featuring some people I’ve heard of and some I haven’t. I remember the next day seeing the guy from Flower Kings doing guitar solos with some people from some other bands that I hadn’t heard before. Oddly, even though I listen to progressive rock, I seem to have missed a lot of bands that other progressive rock fans listen to. On the third day, there was a band that really stood out to me called Multifuse, which sounded very much like Magma, but not so much that it was distracting. In fact, the bits that didn’t sound like Magma sounded kind of like Abba, which is a combination that really suits me. Later that day, we took the stage and performed our set. I can’t even remember what we played. But I’m pretty sure we played. Then we were done, and we were exhausted and we ate some Indian food (for some unknown reason, England has a lot of good Indian food).

After that, we said “So Long” to England and took all of their chocolate and left on an airplane. Perhaps we’ll be back for a tour in the future.

-Johnny Unicorn, keyboard & saxophone, Phideaux