Monday
Jul312017

The Making Of The Garden Part 1

The biggest fear in my life is that I will die within a close proximity of where I was born.  All my life I have never felt like I belong in Washington.  I feel a wave of relief every time I leave and an overwhelming sense of dread every time I return.  While Washington can be a beautiful place, I always feel like the weather and the ample vegetation are working together against me. Slowly wearing me down, physically and mentally until I die and my body can be consumed by the plants, trees and fungus and used as fuel in their slow war against the other residents of Pacific Northwest.  Everything just feels like it is working against me here.  I feel like I can't escape.
Sometimes I drive out of Washington just to help me realize I can leave any time I want. I will measure the success of my life by how far away from Washington I die. I don't want my dead body becoming part of a place I dislike so much.

In 2008 I wrote the song "Kudzu" and the instrumental track "Empty City" while feeling like I could never escape Washington.  The songs are about a character living in a city made of plants that are draining the life out of him to fuel itself. Ultimately the character becomes a plant, accepts his fate and begins to drain the life out of other unsuspecting victims.

Nick Katich was attending art school at the time in CA and had access to a 16mm camera and shot a video for "Kudzu" with his friends Matt and Willow:

I feel like most musicians (at some point) think about making a concept album.  Life was not going so great for me and I kept relating to the concept of "Kudzu" and "Empty City" so I decided to try expand on that concept and turn it into a full length album.  I knew it was going to be a monumental effort for myself and I didn't really know where to start but I thought that if I can make a pallette of sounds and patches, things would work themselves out. I had finished the doomed 2008 US tour and had no band, a bleak employment situation and was dealing with crippling depression.  What better thing could I do than chase some deluded dream of creating a concept album?

While I started making field recordings and building a sound library Nick created a demo EP for his black metal project "Palace of Worms" and called it "The Decaying Despot" and even used some of his special FX work from the Kudzu video for the cover art.  

While I was in a pit of despair, Nick contacted me and said there was this guy "Jonathan" who heard (and liked) The Decaying Despot and he was starting a label called "The Flenser" and was interested in putting out a Palace of Worms full length.  Nick suggested I come down to San Francisco and help him record his full length "The Forgotten."  I eagerly fled Washington and helped Nick complete his album while I simultaneously prepared my own album (whilst sleeping on Nick's floor).  When I wasn't busy with Palace Of Worms production work I would explore the city and make field recordings or work on synth patches or plot demos.

Once Nick finished The Forgotten it became the first album The Flenser released and eventually the label went on to become very successful.  Would the Flenser ever have existed if Kudzu never existed? Probably, but its weird to think about how different things would be if that song didn't exist and the video didn't exist.  I definitely think Palace Of Worms would still exist, I definitely think The Flenser would still exist but I think it would all be a bit different.  It's fun to think The Garden played a minor part in something as historic as the launching of The Flenser.

I decided to stay in San Francisco long term and try to finish my album there.  What better way to celebrate escaping Washington than to dedicate years of my life to an art project based on my time spent in Washington?!?! Honestly I was too depressed to get anything done in WA. It was easier to get things done in SF and basing my project off of memories of WA rather than living in WA and being incompacitated by it every day.

I got a real job in the city and stopped sleeping on Nick's floor.  I now had more time to conceptualize "The Garden."  I came to the decision that I wanted to make it a progressive rock concept album rather than a fully electronic album.  What does any good progressive rock concept album need?
1. An epic story

2. A main character

3. A relateable fantasy setting

4. Long-ass experimental songs

4. Instrumental songs

5. Synthesizers

6. Orchestral instruments

7. Unique packaging

I had a the basic elements of a concept/story within the song Kudzu but I had to expand the story to fit an album.  I think there has been some confusion as to what The Garden is about.  I am not going to explain the whole album as the meaning of each song should be left up to the listeners imagination, but...

...I don't want anyone to confuse The Garden as some sort of hippy album about tree hugging, conservation or saving the planet.  The general story of the album is about a main character that meets a woman. The main character becomes infatuated with the woman and he follows her to a city made of plants.  The woman ends up just being a plant herself and is an extension of the city. She is used to lure people there and trap them so the city can eat and grow bigger.  The main character realizes he can never escape and has to come to terms with being consumed and ultimately turning into a plant himself.  The bonus disc was supposed to be about that character's life as a plant.

Once I had a concept down I was able to outline the flow of the album and start working on demos of all the songs. I started loading my field recordings into a VST sampler and making percussive drum kits and other sample based instrument patches.  And eventually I had a bunch of song demos.  It took about 14 months for me to get the first version of the demos completed.  I was ready to start collaborating and turning my electronic compositions into progressive rock songs!

(To Be Continued)