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Making 7DS Lyric Book
Please be reminded that these photographs are copyrighted images. That means that you need to get permission by the artist to use them.
Because my first artistic language was paint and paper, ideas for album artwork usually come first, before the music is recorded.Some of the following photographs are "out-takes"- They aren't the actual photos used in the CD booklet, and not all of the photos from the booklet are discussed here, but we thought you might find some of the stories interesting. Kristin Maling was the graphic designer who worked (with much patience and under tight deadlines) with me on the project, getting the technical things right. Without his help I couldn't have finished this. I had already determined to use some of the beautiful black and white photographs taken by Michael Wilson (see "Michael Wilson Photo shoot" also in this section) but I struggled for months trying to come up with the "right" way to do lyrics sheets. As the idea to use different ways of "imprinting" on a surface took shape, I started to embroider the lyrics from "Winter at nine" on a woollen scarf, as an experiment. This was sometime around January 2002, shortly after the bed tracks (bass and drums, "scratch acoustic" and vocals) went to tape in the studio. I worked on the scarf during sound checks and spare moments over the next 4 months. In February I toured with Madison Greene (a very amazing aggressive acoustic world music act) into the American Midwest, and then the Southeast U.S. with singer/songwriter Tom Conlon (a terribly fantastic guitarist, and effortless vocalist). Several ideas were sketched out during some of the traveling time, and by March I was beginning the artwork.
During a trip to Keene, NH in April, I scanned every roadside junkyard for an old school bus, and finally found it in Thorndike, Maine. I was staying with two very grassrootsy, folky musician couples (can you expect otherwise, in Maine?) who were sharing an old farmhouse- the good people who make up "Tree by Leaf" (see our "grassroots army" section) and they had informed me that local rumor was weighing in favour of an old abandoned school-bus visible to the naked eye, from their living room window. We could just make out the faint shape of it, perched on a hill about a mile away, but we couldn't figure out how to navigate through the huge sections of bush and farming land that surrounded it. Garret and I walked around in the back bush for 4 hours to no avail. The following day, Gabe, a friend of the "Tree by Leaf"-ers who also happens to be a fine banjo player (see the good lovin' crazy stuff section) kept the bus in our sightline and drove the van down farming lanes until we couldn't drive anymore. We hiked across 3 or 4 huge hilly fields, continuing to climb towards the ridge and there it was, perfect in it's rustiness; a bullet-holed beauty. It was a cold, early-spring kind of day with the sun; warm on the back of your neck.a hint of blue sky. It took about 4 hours to carve/scratch/write the lyrics for "Emotions are a school-bus with a drunkard at the wheel" on the emergency door during which time, Gabe and I enjoyed some luke-warm Earl Grey tea out of a little milk pail, and some bread, cheese and chocolate. Gabe lay down on the cornfield and took a nap, and I enjoyed the silence and the wind wrestling with the limbs of the trees while I worked.
While in Boston, I hooked up with Sam, who I knew, from previous meetings at Cornerstone Festival (see the photo section under "Cornerstone 98-2002) She's been adding ink to a most beautiful tattoo that covers her upper back and the top of her arms. It's a work in progress, and an art that her husband Mark also values (he has several tattoos as well, being in a hard-core band and all). Sam was very Patient as I spent 3 or 4 hours writing the lyrics for "Remedy" on her right arm, around some pre-existing "ink". Both Sam and Mark have been major "grassroots army" supporters, driving ungodly hours to far away shows, and hosting concerts in their home.
Mid April brought some Southern sunrays into Ontario and we had record highs in between snow flurries- the weather was schizophrenic. One of these very unusually hot days, I visited my aunt and uncle, and their five kids, with the intention of creating the lyrics for the title track "7 deadly sins". Using the two youngest members of the family, (Thomas and Veronika) I mixed clay and blue tempera paint together into a sticky paste, which I used to paint the words onto them. Running out of room, I continued the lyrics onto the pram (a very British word). They were all incredibly good about all of this, and we had fun splashing in a puddle afterwards to get it off. Alas! I didn't account for the high UV rating which burns unsuspecting naked skin in 10 seconds flat! Poor Thomas got the worst of it: the photo we shot of him after we took off the mud is evidence of his most forgiving nature. Having been painted in mud myself, by Thomas and Veronika, as "payback," I soon experienced the worst sunburn I've ever had, which showed up as lovely heart and flower shaped designs on my arms and back; white skin a negative on a positively vibrant red! If you know the words to the beginning of this song, you can imagine the reaction that my cousin received from confused friends of the family who came to visit.
I've included two shots of Erhart's beautiful pigeons simply because I like them. I can't explain what a delicate thing it is to work with a live creature. We photographed several different birds, and I had a particular fondness for the mottled looking ones. It's not standard for message-carrying birds to transport things in their mouth. Usually the handler will attach a small cylinder shaped case to one leg, but for obvious reasons, we took some liberties. I've known Erhart and his family for many years; I used to go swimming in their pool, and play various versions of "clans-fighting-each-other" games in the woods behind their house. The woods, which connected to Four mile Creek, became the prime spot in Virgil (where I grew up) for wading in the summer, and ice cold "soakers" in the winter or early spring.
The tree carving for "Non-dysfunctional Love song" took about 5 hours to do. A small piece of bush and marshy land owned by my father has been a pleasant place of escape when I need to smell the real-ness of the world, instead of Toronto's downtown smog. I've forgotten what kind of tree this is. I want to say maple. It was the end of April, and the wild lily and coltsfoot was coming up. The moss was recovering from the wintertime sporting a vibrant shade of pea green against the dark black-blue of the swamp water. It was a great day to carve a love song into the bark of a tree.
Because "Liberation Party" has such obvious imagery connected to it, the irony of using a rattrap made this song a fun project for me. There aren 't any complicated stories for this one. I used a small piece of Brie cheese to bait the trap, just to keep it real. I think we set it off once during the photo shoot. (My neighbor Paul actually took this photo) The sink for "Beautiful disaster" was an ironic kind of challenge. I had claimed it from a demolition site in South Carolina during my first tour there, when the Jammin Java Venue (in Columbia) was being built. It traveled with me for several weeks, getting in my way when I needed to sleep in the van. When I finally got home, I gave it a good scrubbing to remove the years of accumulated southern grime, put it into storage and forgot about it. Four years later, I now needed a DIRTY sink, and I had scraped all the precious dirt off of it! So I experimented with various kinds of soap, to recreate scum, which didn't work. I tried dirt, which didn't have enough "stick" to it. In the end, I used a combination of watered down watercolor paint, ink, charcoal dust, and Van Houtens special milk chocolate powder (a very fine dust, most excellent in recreating grime!) It took several hours to get the right look, adding layer after layer before the sink was dirty enough to scratch words into. This I did with a very sharp spade shaped tool that I use to create scratchboard art (called "poor man's woodcut" as it photocopies well, and you don't need to run it through a printing press, but get all most the same effect. The black "brave" T-shirts (Merchandise section of the website) were done in this technique.)The whole sink took about 6 or more hours.
The bed for "20/20 in the morning" was photographed in the old factory loft where I live. I found it outside of a junk shop when I was 19. It was the bed I used for about 7 years after college, until I moved into Toronto. I used acrylic to paint the words onto the back of it. This was a hard lyric page to conceptualize and I had to try a bunch of different ideas out before I found one that worked.
The lyrics for "Rest" were shot on location at the Niagara Whirlpool Gorge area, just below Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. The rapids are extremely dangerous here, and few who dare to slip into these waters through accidental or foolish means survive. Overhead, a Spanish cable car travels across on wires from one side of the rapids to the other. (I 'm pretty sure that we have an old retro postcard of this cable car somewhere in this website under the "links" section.) Balancing near the rocks with charcoal in hand, I was a little nervous that folks up there might think I was "up to no good".it actually took several attempts to find a surface large enough for the entire lyrics. (The photo here isn't the one we actually used) The whole process took about 3-4 hours.There is a particular spot below the whirlpool area where the river takes a corner, and water is forced over a huge submerged rock. In a frightening way it both attracts and repulses me; I am fascinated that where the rock and the river connect, I can see a foot or two under the water, the cold emerald green smoothness that allows me to see the rock and then.nothing. (It's the same feeling I get, going skinny-dipping, not know what's actually under all that dark water) I can't touch it, but I want to, and I imagine that feeling, of being pushed under, as debris leaps across and becomes trapped underneath. I recognize the force of the water in which I would certainly perish if I were to enter it. Yet, against the terrible force of this water, the rock remains unmoved. Like an old southern "spiritual" song the words became a solace to me during a time when I had no control, and could only put my hope in God.