Music, musings and more from the mind of Ben Averch.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cloud Cover

Shortly after moving from California to Washington, I got a device called a Palmer Speaker Simulator. The model I have has the designation “PGA-04 ADIG-LB”, a catchy name for sure. This thing changed my life because I’ve been able to make recordings of huge guitar sounds without having to mic up an amp and blast everyone in the neighborhood. So this has made late night sessions possible and I usually get most of my work done on recordings once everyone else in the house has gone to sleep.

With the Palmer and my trusty Marshall amp head (the Marshall would be replaced with the Tonic Amps “Vapour” prototype that I have used as my main guitar amp for “Fortune Cookie” and everything since then), I set out to record the album that would become “Washington State” – with the target being rocking guitars and good songs all the way through. I had previously recorded a bunch of stuff at home in California, using the “blast the neighborhood” guitar recording technique and created a futuristic concept album I called “New Neural Substrate”. For a variety of reasons, after working up more than a dozen songs, I pretty much shelved the project. I guess I was thinking that the sound quality wasn’t there and maybe that the concept about a futuristic world 100 years from now was just not really happening. But, I digress.

So, having just moved up to Washington, I was really in awe of some of the natural beauty here – all kinds of trees, mountains on every side, giant lakes, and of course – clouds. Clouds hanging low in the sky, lingering over the hillsides. Living here, I am perpetually reminded of Luke Skywalker’s head-standing force-meditation vision from Dagobah: “I saw a city in the clouds” … for sure, that is Seattle, and the surrounding area.

The song “Cloud Cover” was the first tune that I did for “WA ST”, and I think I was just getting over a cold so my voice is kind of uncharacteristically smoothed out. I may have allowed myself to get too close to my longstanding Rush influence with this song, with the “Dreamline” muted eighth-note guitar line in the verses, and the phantom fear from “Freewill” making an appearance in verse two, but it’s all out of love (or subliminal response) so I forgive myself.

This tune skips the traditional guitar solo for a synth solo, which is a nice change of pace (always loved these on the “Signals” album, whoops), but there’s still the “lead guitar voice” in the verses, so folks shouldn’t miss that too much.

For this tune and pretty much all of this record, I was pretty heavily influenced by “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, which had a big impact on me (and millions of other people too, I guess). The goal for the lyric writing was really about simplicity and directness (and about planet Earth), which I think was a natural reaction from laboring over a to-be-abandoned science fiction epic for the prior couple of years. In any case, the result is a catchy rock number with lots of guitars and keyboards and a big distorted bass sound that really drives the whole thing. All that, and uplifting lyrics about being in a state of alert presence.

I did a music video for this song with director extraordinaire Brian Barnett who filmed the awesome Wylie Gustafson live movie. The idea for the video was, rocking out in the forest. So that’s pretty much what we got. I had a bigger vision than budget, so a lot of the sure-to-have-been super awesome ideas (like me coming out of the lake with the guitar on, lolz, and groovy B-roll) were all dropped.

We found a great spot to do the filming, and the trees really were huge. The day was perfect, but there was just one tiny little problem -- the spot we had dragged the amp and set up the cameras was right off of a dirt road, and as cars (and trucks) drove past, inevitably huge clouds of dust would sweep over us. This actually looked pretty cool as the dust got caught in the light streaming through the treetops, but having to sing the song six hundred times in what became a dust storm meant I inhaled massive amounts of dirt. Hilarious fun!


In the chaos of time that's strung together
Without a pause to beat it back
Somewhere there's a silent moment
In my mind's whirl and my heart's attack
Looking out at all that the world is
The crush of cars, and roads and buildings
Makes you want to fly away
But you can't fly in the daytime
And you can't hope to know your dreams
As the present tense slips through the seams

Awake under the cloud cover
I'm standing in the misty rain
As hills erupt in all directions
I just want to see you again

Wrapped around my heart
Stolen away by a phantom fear
I know that you are near me
When everything I've known just disappeared Lingering over the hillside
Like a blanket pulled up by the trees
I can't think of anywhere else to be
In the moment now, I can almost see you
I can almost hear your voice
And everything only you or I could remember

Burning through the cloud cover
Here comes the mighty sun
To bathe us all in waves of hope for change
To bring about what is to come

When the dream ends and you're up with the sun again
And the rain falls you can already see the future

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