Mike’s final Scambot 2/Inkling song diary!

(Photo by Frank Wesp)

Hello pals! Beyond its easy availability from all of us here at Exowax in the USA, Scambot 2 has begun its wide release and will soon be showing up at Burning Shed in the UK and iTunes, and has already appeared at Amazon.

Many thanks to Chris Ingalls for this great review of Scambot 2 at Pop Matters!

To honor these glorious developments, I now offer the final installment of the ongoing Scambot 2/Inkling song diary, this one covering the second half of Inkling.

Mystery Song

This 4-second song represents the pinnacle of my compositional efforts to date! And it’s a fun moment of interaction between myself and Mr. Minnemann, and nicely punctuates the space between the ethereal ending of “Cram” and the startling introduction of…

E

Ever since hat. and Boil That Dust Speck I’ve enjoyed messing around with tiny little songs. For this project I made a bunch of them, merely two of which ended up on SB2 proper, resulting in a bumper crop for Inkling. This one has a link with “O” on SB2, quoting its ending piano part. So far we’ve got “M” (from Scambot 1),”O” and “E.” Will Scambot 3 continue the trend?

The Scorpions

So titled, because Ophunji (by the end of Scambot 1) had The Scorpions (the band), along with members of Air Supply‘s touring group, chained up in his recording studio disguised as the Quiet Children. This song is an alternate version of “Salve-Dependent Scorpions” from The Scambot Holiday Special, with an entirely different guitar performance, some added keyboard parts, less saxophone, and a radically different mix. This new version is a whole other trip for sure, and I really love it – I’m happy with the guitar playing and with the highly attuned work of Messrs. Beller, Musallam and Travers. Suitable for loud crank-age in the car.

Skating Backwards

One time in the ’90s I woke up in the middle of the night in a French hotel room, and the radio was playing some very eerie and bewitching organ music (I had fallen asleep with the radio on – it wasn’t a supernatural radio occurrence). The piece went on for a long time. Ever since then I’ve had the desire to write a long-form organ piece (organ was my first instrument after all) in tribute to my memory of that night – which still hasn’t happened, but “Skating Backwards” provides a sliver of an inkling of what one section of such a piece might sound something like. I really like the ending. I like the whole thing but I think the ending is especially neat.

Tom

So titled, because that is the name of the tiny red bug who shows up in the story every now and then. The first minute and 24 seconds was scored on paper without an instrument at hand, so it was fun to record the parts and hear how they sounded. The second part is a long blues progression, over which I challenged myself to play the most economical guitar solo I could. Later on I decorated the solo with synthesizer commentary – sometimes phrasing or harmonizing with the guitar, other times heading off into its own world. Part three is super atmospheric and chill, and extremely suitable for late night contemplation with headphones engaged.

Mayday!

As anti-news-media screeds go, this is pretty cute. I mainly did it in order to provoke a reaction from news addict Bryan Beller (he liked it!). I really enjoy the analog synth backdrop, made up of four tracks of edited Moog Voyager improvs (I drew from the same bank of recordings used for the comedy sketches on The Scambot Holiday Special). I love how weirdly expressive abstract synthesizer sounds can be – I use them here in kind of the same way Raymond Scott used electronic sounds to punctuate advertising copy. At the end of this track it used to go “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” for a lot longer, but I edited it down (it’s still plenty long enough). I did this for you.

Lovesong

At one point this song had lyrics about Ophunji’s crush on Karen Carpenter. I do have a working version of this song featuring Ophunji singing in his gnat-voice. You might want to hear it. I enjoy the weird turn the guitars take at the end of this track, and the hard cut to black.

Back It Up

“Three and say it!” and “Back it up! Y’all look so beautiful, buttercup,” were part of a dream I had that made me wake up laughing. This song makes me very happy. If it didn’t have a middle section in 11/8, I would ask all the world to dance to it with me.

Inkling

I knew I wanted to write a song called “Inkling” – I’ve known that for years, and have tried to write lyrics for one a few times. I came up with the basic track of this song years ago during the Court TV sessions, and for years I didn’t realize that it was “Inkling,” but during the Scambot 2 sessions I finally figured it out. I want to explore this melody further, and I’m considering coming up with a live arrangement for it. Maybe for the BFD tour next month? I’ll take it up with the authorities, run it up the flagpole and see if anyone falls over when they look up at it.

Uncompressed Rag

Not unlike Sluggo!, this album ends with a jaunty little piano ditty. It was recorded immediately after I wrote it and I had only the most basic grasp of the piano part. Maybe that’s a good thing? This one features Evan Francis‘ bold exhortations on clarinet. I love the way he dances around the chord changes.

And with the actual resolution into E Major that we’ve all been waiting for, Inkling saunters off into the sunset. Why not go back to the start of Scambot 2 and play both albums again? We all have time for that, right?


Thank you for hanging with me throughout this song diary – it’s been extremely fun for me, and I really hope it’s enhanced the album-listening experience for you.

And finally, I hope to see a bunch of you at the MK/BFD shows next month (please go here for all dates and ticket links). Me, Bryan Beller and Joe Travers doing our thing, with the Travis Larson Band opening – it’s going to be a good time for everyone!

Galangal!
Mike


Scambot 2 Factoids

We’re currently shipping the 2-CD Scambot 2 signed and numbered limited edition of 2000. The double-CD set consists of the Scambot 2 album (65 minutes of music) and the Inkling album (48 minutes of music) in a colorful digi-pak, with two handsome booklets nestled within. You’ll get an immediate download of Scambot 2 as soon as you pre-order. (You’ll have to wait until your CD set arrives to hear Inkling, which, by the way, features the brilliant RICK MUSALLAM on the song “Cram”!!)

Scambot 2 itself is now available as a single-album paid download. (Inkling won’t be available as a download – it’s only available as part of the 2-CD set.)


SCAMBOT 2

1. In The Trees (10:28)
2. Roots Twist (3:02)
3. Sam (3:20)
4. Clipper (4:36)
5. Forget About It (0:46)
6. Pretzels (4:25)
7. Buzz (4:32)
8. Race The Stars (3:44)
9. O (1:26)
10. Roll (6:23)
11. Constructed (3:46)
12. Freezer Burn (5:23)
13. Scores of People (5:22)
14. Cold Hands Gnat (4:00)
15. Proceed (3:19)


INKLING (More from the Scambot 2 Sessions)

1. Presence (0:48)
2. Scambot (2:17)
3. Boghe (4:01)
4. Sickness (2:01)
5. The Coma (2:11)
6. I Named You (0:45)
7. Falafel (1:29)
8. O Elastic Love! (1:23)
9. Cram (8:10)
10. Mystery Song (0:04)
11. E (0:37)
12. The Scorpions (5:32)
13. Skating Backwards (2:15)
14. Tom (7:01)
15. Mayday! (1:25)
16. Lovesong (1:27)
17. Back It Up (2:54)
18. Inkling (1:37)
19. Uncompressed Rag (2:04)

Mike Keneally’s Bonus Disc Song Diary, Pt. 1!

What would it be like if I said a few words about each track on Inkling, the second album which comes with the physical edition of Scambot 2?

I think… it might go… a little something… like… this:

Presence

This is a little scene-setting thing I recorded at home around 2008 or so. It was in fact meant to be the introduction to “Popes,” a song that ended up on You Must Be This Tall. In fact after YMBTT came out and I found this track in my files (under the name “Popes Intro”) I was a bit distraught that I hadn’t included it on that album – but now I’m glad I waited. I think that opening chord, and the odd cascades of melody which follow it, work nicely as a welcome into the world of Inkling.

Scambot

It’s kind of funny that this song isn’t on the main album. It was a starting point for the entire series and was under consideration for both Scambot 1 and 2. I love Marco’s drumming on it, and the sound of the SG on the solo. Lyrically the song is a reminder to myself to meditate – maybe that’s why it didn’t end up as part of either of the key Scambot releases, because the message is so personal that it kept acting like a roadblock to the fictional narrative. I’m certainly very happy about its placement now. Everything on Inkling feels to me like it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.

Boghe

The synth tracks for the main body of the song were recorded for Court TV in the late ’90s at Lyle Workman’s studio, and the acoustic guitars, and everything in the coda, were done years later at Scott‘s. In its original unadorned form, it very nearly was the opening track on Wine And Pickles. When I sent an early version of the Wine And Pickles running order to my friend, composer/producer/radio presenter Co de Kloet, he said that “Boghe” sounded to him more like one of his own ambient compositions than anything particularly Keneally-ish. It is unusually spacious for me, and I think might provide some indication of what Scambot 3 might eventually sound like. The coda of “Boghe” is one of my favorite little bits of music I’ve ever written. It fades languidly away until…

Sickness

…barges in like a plastic pineapple to the head. The basic track for this was acoustic guitar (me) and acoustic bass (Bryan), recorded in 2006 for a Keneally/Beller acoustic album that we decided not to complete (it was mainly to be duo versions of previously released tracks, plus four new songs: “Hallmark,” “DaDunDa,” “Land” and “Sickness”). Once I realized that this one didn’t need to remain a duo piece, I allowed myself to run rampant with the overdubs. There’s a lot of crazy, noisy stuff on this track, but my favorite section is the contemplative bit starting at 0:39. The first bass note that heralds the new section makes me more happy than is reasonable. And the three clean electric guitars that play the harmonized melodies in this section sound like dreams come true to me.

The Coma

“Sickness”/”The Coma” were going to be a set-piece on Scambot 1, but the plotline never made room for them, so I didn’t bother finishing them at the time (if I had they would have ended up on the bonus album Songs And Stories Inspired By Scambot 1). The basic track for “The Coma” went like this: me writing the main rhythmic motif on my Charvel guitar, and showing it to Marco, and then me conducting the ensuing composition by jumping up and down and contorting my body while playing variations of the main motif, and Marco orchestrating my spasms in real time. That was recorded in 2006, and I spent a good part of the next nine years on and off with Mike Harris ladling gallons of guitar and other overdubs onto it, then painstakingly tweaking the proportions. I have so many mixes of this in my laptop it could practically be its own album.

I Named You

This little kitten was very nearly going to be the second song on Scambot 2, as a major left turn after “In The Trees.” Evan’s flute sounds great, and coming as it now does after “The Coma,” it is a major left turn, and it also nicely ushers in “Chunk 2” of Inkling (check out the back cover of the Inkling booklet to see how I think these pieces group together in four chunks. Maybe four sides of a ten-inch pair of 45-rpm discs?).

Falafel

Don’t know why I called it “Falafel,” other than I think it’s a cool looking word. This was actually the original ending of “In The Trees,” before it became clear that “In The Trees” was more effective at a trim, concise 10:28. “Falafel” is a return to the groove heard behind the guitar solo at 3:30 of “In The Trees,” but taken at a slower pace for a heavier grind. It’s a good jolt of adrenaline for Inkling.

O Elastic Love!

Another synth soundtrack excerpt from the Court TV recordings, heavily modified with guitars. The twisty guitar riff that comes in at 0:19 shows up again on the piece “O” from Scambot 2. I like how much ground “O Elastic Love!” covers in such a short span of time, and the piano solo at the end is one of the most personally satisfying keyboard solos I’ve ever played.

Cram

More than any other song that didn’t make it onto Scambot 2, taking this one off kind of broke my heart a little. I really, really, really like “Cram.” It’s based on the same guitar tuning I used for the song “Weekend” (D A C F# B E, an open D13 chord), specifically because I wanted to be able to go directly from “Weekend” into another song (or the other way around) during a gig without having to switch guitars. The day after the Keneally Band rehearsal for NEARfest 2012, only Kris Myers, Rick Musallam and I remained at Chatfield Manor, enough people to get “Cram” (and “Roll”) off the ground. The initial “Cram” jam lasted well over half an hour. The groove on this thing is supremely exhilarating to me. I’ve spent hours blissing out listening to rough instrumental versions of it. When I sent an early version to Kris Myers, he declared it to be cramtastic.

There are so many things I dig about it: Ben and Jesse‘s vocals, the synth bass, the absolutely insane and masterful Kris Myers drum performance, and the interplay between my and Rick’s guitars. (And I may have mentioned before that Rick’s name was accidentally left off the credits of this song? One of the things I will do in the future, believe you me, is to write an essay specifically about all the wonderful things Rick plays in this song. Until that time, strap on your headphones [make sure you’ve got them on the right way] and pay special attention to all the little Les Paul chatterings on the right side of the mix. Beautiful.)

Well that’s half the album and it feels like a good spot to take a breather. I’ll come at you soon with words about the second half of Inkling. Y’all are freaking sweet people. Have some green beans, man, they’re good for you.

Lozenge,
Mike
PS. We just added a couple of Baked Potato gigs to the end of the Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins tour in October/November (see keneally.com for tour dates). They’re on Sunday November 6 and Tuesday November 8 – the second of which is Election Day in the US. I think we’ll all be in the mood for a blowout gig that night. On Sunday it’ll be the Keneally-Beller-Travers trio, but on Tuesday it’ll be Keneally-Musallam-Beller-Travers as we gleefully welcome Rick Musallam back into our ranks.


Scambot 2 Shipping Now!

We’re currently shipping the 2-CD Scambot 2 signed and numbered limited edition of 2000. The double-CD set consists of the Scambot 2 album (65 minutes of music) and the Inkling album (48 minutes of music) in a colorful digi-pak, with two handsome booklets nestled within. You’ll get an immediate download of Scambot 2 as soon as you pre-order. (You’ll have to wait until your CD set arrives to hear Inkling, which, by the way, features the brilliant RICK MUSALLAM on the song “Cram”!!)

Scambot 2 itself is now available as a single-album paid download. (Inkling won’t be available as a download – it’s only available as part of the 2-CD set.)

For the moment, the Scambot 2/Inkling 2-CD limited edition is only available through Exowax. It will go into wider release, through other distributors and retailers worldwide, starting in September.


SCAMBOT 2

1. In The Trees (10:28)
2. Roots Twist (3:02)
3. Sam (3:20)
4. Clipper (4:36)
5. Forget About It (0:46)
6. Pretzels (4:25)
7. Buzz (4:32)
8. Race The Stars (3:44)
9. O (1:26)
10. Roll (6:23)
11. Constructed (3:46)
12. Freezer Burn (5:23)
13. Scores of People (5:22)
14. Cold Hands Gnat (4:00)
15. Proceed (3:19)


INKLING (More from the Scambot 2 Sessions)

1. Presence (0:48)
2. Scambot (2:17)
3. Boghe (4:01)
4. Sickness (2:01)
5. The Coma (2:11)
6. I Named You (0:45)
7. Falafel (1:29)
8. O Elastic Love! (1:23)
9. Cram (8:10)
10. Mystery Song (0:04)
11. E (0:37)
12. The Scorpions (5:32)
13. Skating Backwards (2:15)
14. Tom (7:01)
15. Mayday! (1:25)
16. Lovesong (1:27)
17. Back It Up (2:54)
18. Inkling (1:37)
19. Uncompressed Rag (2:04)

Mike’s Scambot 2 song diary, Side Four!

Ladies! Gentlemen! Cats!

I’ve been getting myself ready for the G4 Experience in Long Island next week. In addition to the classes I’m presenting, I’m playing shows with Joe Satriani, Keneally-Minnemann-Beller, and Steve Vai, so there’s a lot to prepare. G4 is sold out, but there’s a waitlist you can join in case anyone drops out, so here’s the goldurn website.

Scambot 2 is now whirling around the globe to all who pre-ordered; thank you for doing that, those of you who did! The rest of you can now simply order it if you like, never mind the “pre.” And for those who prefer the digital route, Scambot 2 is now officially available as a download (and, when ordered directly from the Keneally Store, the full digital booklet is included with purchase). Again as a reminder, the album Inkling is only available with the 2-CD physical edition of Scambot 2. I hope those of you who’ve received it are as enamored of the album design as I am. Kudos again to Atticus Wolrab – he did truly beautiful work on this album and I am grateful.

And now, I’ll dither a bit about the final four songs on Scambot 2 – the eighteen-minute-and-four-second “side four” of the vinyl two-record set which does not yet exist but perhaps will some fine day…

Freezer Burn

The feeling of the beginning of this song was trapped in my head for months before I started recording it. If I knew anything about Scambot 2, I knew it was going to have one song that started with a vibe like a slow early-ish Pink Floyd track, replete with long held organ chords. Didn’t know what any of the chords were yet, I just had this vibe in mind for a long time, and in fact I think it intimidated me for a while, enough that I avoided concretely starting the song for quite a while. Finally one day I was in the studio with Mike Harris and had gone as far as I could on the other stuff I had been working on, and he said “what’s next?” I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I decided on a working title (which, of course, stuck) and an opening chord, and made my way from there.

I had also had it in mind that the song was supposed to be seven minutes long, for some obscure numerological reason. On that first day of working on the song with Mike H., we laid down basic ideas for four sections totaling seven minutes.

I wasn’t fully satisfied with the fourth section though – it was forced, something to achieve this basically arbitrary length. It was a fine feeling about a year later when I officially shaved off the final section (at one point I’d shaved off the third section [the ultra-spacey bit that starts at 4:17] as well, in a fit of overzealous pruning, until Sarah saw me listening to it in headphones and blissing out heavily and asked me “what the heck are you cutting that section out for? You obviously love it!”).

There was also a lot of chatter in my head about whether or not this song should have lyrics. Scambot 2 is obviously a more lyric-oriented album than Scambot 1 was, and I had decided to let the lyrics be more explicit about driving and reflecting the plotline. So I tried a couple of times to begin work on “Freezer Burn” lyrics, and got nowhere with it. Finally one day I imagined a lead guitar in that opening section playing the role of a vocalist – something probably inspired by Satriani. To generate melody ideas I improvised three takes of lead guitar, then carved away until I arrived at a set of melodic statements I enjoyed – then learned those statements, and we recorded a new performance of them as the main lead guitar (you will still hear fragments of the original three improvised takes, dancing around the main guitar).

The second part is obviously Wooden Smoke-influenced, and I was real happy to get some of that flavor into Scambot 2. Part of that texture is due to none other than the much maligned 80s-era digital synth, the Yamaha DX-7. This poor box has been excoriated in the past, but it can really provide an interesting flavor, especially the fake jazz guitar setting which has a real nice pluck and sonorousness to it. (I also used quite a bit of distorted DX-7 on “In The Trees.” You can make some really nasty industrial noise with it [just ask Trent Reznor], especially when you decide to pump it through your guitar pedalboard and go nuts.)

I give a special “yo!” to Jeff Berkley – I used his lap steel guitar as a major component of that ultra-spacey third part. I’d never played lap steel before, but it was a simple enough part that it didn’t give me conniptions. There’s definitely a major Steve Howe influence at play on this last section.
Scores of People

The title and opening lyrics of this song have been around since I was writing lyrics for The Mistakes in 1995, so when I claimed that Scambot 2 has been under construction since the late ’90s, I guess I was technically mistaken. But for many years, the song consisted of nothing more than that title and those opening lyrics, and I believed for a long time that I would never go any further with them, that those few components comprised everything intelligent I could say on the subject of abuse of authority.

I did the music for the first part of this song (the lyric part) during the sessions for Scambot 1. I still only had the first few lyrics, but I wrote the music based on what I had, and presumed the rest would come eventually. I finally hit upon a set of lyrics that felt both germane to the plot and also managed to stand on their own. I think they work both as a sincere reflection of ideals I have and as a slightly parodic look at “cause”-oriented popular music.

The second part, the long piano-based instrumental, is a piece I wrote on Fender Rhodes when I was 16 years old. Gregg Bendian and Doug Lunn really shine on this section. I think there are three Bendian performances superimposed in this section; choosing things that he played and mixing them “just so” was seriously fun, completely my idea of a good time in the studio. The brilliance of Mike Harris also comes to the fore here. Hopefully all you headphone people are having a good time with this one.

Cold Hands Gnat

This was actually recorded before the version of “Cold Hands” that was on Scambot 1. I recorded this one at home, except for the acoustic piano which was later overdubbed at Scott‘s place. It was done as a songwriting demo, but it had a feeling about it that was so different from the version I did for Scambot 1, and I always had love for this version.

I think the gnat voice is endearing, but when Joe Satriani heard it he was terrified by it. You just never know how these things are going to hit people.
Proceed

The band track (me, Musallam, Beller, Travers) was recorded at Tom Trefethen‘s Remora Recorders studio in 2008 during the same sessions that produced the basic tracks for “Life’s Too Small,” “Cornbread Crumb,” “Popes,” “The Scorpions” and “Tiny Red Bug.” It was a very productive couple of days. Trefethen (who engineered the early albums of Ambrosia that I love so much) is a pretty legendary figure with very deeply ingrained ideas about how to do things in the studio, and he surely knows how to create a specific vibe – for one thing, he designed his studio to look like a cave, with rough walls resembling rock, and he takes great pains to mic things up according to principles he’s held dear since the ’70s. We recorded the basic tracks to analog tape, and later brought them into the digital realm for overdubs. I can REALLY hear the benefits of analog recording on all these tracks, especially in the drum sound, which is insanely satisfying to my ears.

Lyrically this song was meant to invoke something of The Who‘s “Welcome” from Tommy, which was sort of an inside-joke reference to Scambot’s status as a “concept album.” But after a couple of attempts at writing the lyrics over a period of years, I finally realized exactly what this song should accompany in the story, and the lyrics emerged pretty effortlessly (with special thanks to Sarah for a couple of important suggestions that greatly improved matters).

The song intentionally leaves Scambot 2 on a note of anticipation – it works as a conclusion, I think, but also leaves one hanging slightly (that last chord isn’t a resolving chord, exactly). That works for me in two senses: there will be a Scambot 3, so I didn’t feel like I needed to wrap things up definitively at the end of Scambot 2; and there’s a whole other album (Inkling) in the same physical package as SB2, and I think the end of “Proceed” segues very nicely into the beginning of “Presence” on Inkling.

More about which, soon!

Finally –

Three new concert dates have been added to the Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins tour later this year – here’s the final itinerary for the tour:

MIKE KENEALLY
as special guest in a tribute to KEITH EMERSON
also featuring JONATHAN SCHANG of District 97
and LUIS NASSER of Sonus Umbra and Might Could
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21
At Reggie’s Progtoberfest II, Chicago IL.

 
MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS TOUR
trio with BRYAN BELLER and JOE TRAVERS:
opening all the Northeast shows is the TRAVIS LARSON BAND

SATURDAY OCTOBER 22: Reggies’s Progtoberfest II in Chicago IL

TUESDAY OCTOBER 25: River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains, PA

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 26: Iridium in NYC

THURSDAY OCTOBER 27: Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA

FRIDAY OCTOBER 28: Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, PA

SATURDAY OCTOBER 29: NJ Proghouse in Dunellen, NJ

SUNDAY OCTOBER 30: The Wheelhouse in Narragansett, RI

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1: The Camel in Richmond, VA

WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 2: The Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh, NC

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 3: The Rabbit Hole in Charlotte, NC

I’m seeing posts online to the extent of “why aren’t you playing in ****?” I would love to play EVERYWHERE, but we’re doing what we can in the small window of opportunity available around Beller’s Aristocrats touring and Satriani band in South America later this year. We’ll try to do more next year, I promise.

Time to go to LA and see Radiohead now. Thanks everyone!

Mike!