Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins
- I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound
- Why Am I Your Guy?
- Looking For Nina
- Frozen Beef (Come With Me)
- What Happened Next
- Chatfield Manor
- “I Guess I’ll Peanut”
- Voyage To Manhood
- Egg Zooming
- I’m Afraid
- Cardboard Dog
Mike Keneally: vocals and instruments
Bryan Beller: bass
Toss Panos, Joe Travers, Tom Freeman, Frank Briggs, Mike Mangini: drums
Bob Tedde and Mark DeCerbo: vocals
Producer: Mike Keneally
Mike’s comments (2013):
At this writing (June 16, 2013, in my bunk, on the bus somewhere between Sheffield and Portsmouth), this album has been out of print on CD for years, and various online sellers have been asking stupid prices for a used copy. Back in the States though, as I type, Mike Harris is keeping the Sluggo! fire stoked, working on surround mixes for me to assess when I get home. The Sluggo! CD reissue is on its way, with enough bonus features to trouble a small passel of oxen. For those who haven’t been able to wait, we’ve had the original mix available for download for several years, but for those who still wish to stroke and analyze a physical object, your needs are being seen to in extremis.
This was the first album I did where I didn’t have the luxury of setting my own timetable for the recording and mixing; I was constantly returning to the road, having just joined Steve Vai’s band, and needed to schedule Sluggo! in and around my various obligations to Steve. Nowadays, this approach has become second nature to me, as I’m frequently tucking recording/mixing sessions into the spaces between Satriani and Dethklok jaunts, and having constant access to our own studio means that booking time is no longer an issue – but back then I found it difficult to achieve a working rhythm and the whole process felt fragmented to me. I had great difficulty achieving a final mix I was happy with (one of the reasons I’m terribly excited about the upcoming reissue is that we’re taking our time in doing a new stereo mix that I’m really happy with – not to worry though, purists [and I’m one, too]; the original mix will be in there as well).
Fortunately, I was on a roll writing-wise, and the material itself seemed to transcend any difficulties encountered while committing it to tape. I had managed to come up with arguably my strongest set of “song” songs yet – maybe ever.
Also, atticus wolrab absolutely outdid himself with the artwork for this album. The ways in which he creatively illustrated each of the songs within the booklet absolutely made Sluggo! a stronger statement overall. In many ways, various energies converged at the right time for this album, but still we never nailed the mix the way I’d hoped, so the upcoming reissue is for me a chance to finally get this one 100% to my satisfaction – I wouldn’t say “finally get it right,” because what is “right”? In a lot of ways the original album was totally right. But it’s wrong that the CD has been out of print for so long, so I’m glad to finally redress that. Coming soon!
I’ve written at length about this album before (in 1998 and again in 2009), and much of what I’ve written still holds up for me (although sections could use some revising for clarity, corrections of typos and/or slight inaccuracies, and removal of things that currently embarrass me for whatever reason), so now I’m going to present selections from these past writings, doing some editing along the way, and attributing the year they were written. For instance, these opening paragraphs were written in 2013 and will be attributed as such when this paragraph is over. Get ready for a lot of words! (2013)
At one point the whole album was mixed down to 2-track analog tape, and mastered from that format, but after listening to that finished master I decided that the stereo spectrum and high end were suffering compared to my previous releases, possibly resulting from issues with the analog machine that we mixed down to. So all the songs were quickly remixed to digital (I was just about to leave on tour with Vai again and didn’t have much time) and mastered again. Expensive mistake, and the final mix has always sounded a little crude to me as a result.
This was the first album I did which was conceived as discrete tracks rather than as an unbroken suite of songs, and the first album where I had atticus wolrab break the song list into quarters on the back cover, to suggest the four sides of a double vinyl album. I still found it impossible to make an album less than 70 minutes long, but at a mere sixteen songs it was pretty concise, for me (at that time). It hit people pretty strongly and seems to be a favorite album for a lot of fans. The best print review came from Buddy Blue: “this album pisses me off. I give it an A+.”
The title Sluggo! was in reference to the character in Ernie Bushmiller’s “Nancy” comic strip; Sluggo was a pugnacious little punk. It wasn’t a reference to the villain in the Mr. Bill cartoons. I also learned from a friend, after the album came out, that Sluggo had, for a long time, been his wife’s nickname for his penis. That, too, was not an intentional reference. (2009)
“Potato” was one of those songs you hope for, one that arrives in the head fully formed. The lyrics, melody, chord changes and sound/texture of the record all showed up in my brain simultaneously, and stayed there for months until I recorded it…it was kind of eerie, the way it played in my head continuously as though I were listening to it on a record, before it was ever recorded.
But enquiring minds want to know: What is “the thing that got me started singing ‘Potato’?” (SPOILER ALERT!) It was two things, actually – the video for “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, and a TV commercial for the Cranberries’ first album, both viewed in my hotel room following our 1996 performance at the University of Farmington in Maine (we played there at my pal Mike Gaito’s behest — and during the gig, as referenced in the lyrics, our drummer Frank Briggs’ charts did indeed get swept away in a tumultuous wind, leaving him folded-armed, not-playing and grinning with gallows resignation during the insane unison lines at the end of “Day Of The Cow 2.” What else could he do?). The lyrics to the Oasis song, which didn’t seem to mean much (“Slowly walking down the hall/faster than a cannonball” – sure!), were an encouragement for me to write a song about nothing, and something about the sound of the Cranberries song “Zombie” helped make the “Potato” music come to life. Finally recording it months later felt like I was coloring by numbers, since I’d already had it in my head for so long. (2009)
While writing Sluggo! I had, for the first time in my life, an acoustic piano in my house (when I was growing up I had various electric organs, a Fender Rhodes and an ARP Soloist, but never a real live piano). Sluggo! as a whole benefitted compositionally from my finally having a piano around. (My keyboard chops benefitted as well.) I remember working on the music to “I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound,” “TRANQUILLADO,” “Beautiful,” “Cardboard Dog” and the song “Sluggo” interchangeably, with passages from one song influencing or showing up in another, and with focused attempts made to stretch my piano and writing skills. All the piano tracks were recorded at Signature Sound with Mike Harris engineering, and overdubbed on at Double Time with Jeff Forrest. “Drum-Running” is chamber-rock, influenced in some ways by Henry Cow but a bit more tidy and conventional than they ever were. I perceived a real link between my piano playing and my drumming at this time. My drum tracks on “Drum-Running” and “Cardboard Dog” were influenced equally by Chris Cutler’s work with Cow, and by Ringo Starr. I was always enamored of the idea of hearing Ringo’s tone and minimalist style put in the service of shifting, intricate time changes, and that’s what I was after (never mind that I wasn’t capable of more virtuosic drumming anyway – I definitely stretched my skills to the absolute limit on this album). On the main melody of “Drum-Running” we recorded the drum kit one piece at a time, as I couldn’t execute the sort of syncopations I was imagining any other way. Except for Bryan Beller’s beautiful bass solo, a composition in itself, “Drum-Running” was all my own playing and I really loved working with Jeff Forrest in this capacity; him engineering and providing constant hilarious commentary and me wandering from instrument to instrument with an idiot grin on my face the whole time. (My fondness for that whole dynamic led shortly thereafter to Nonkertompf.) There’s a video of me playing a solo piano version of “Drum-Running,” while wearing a hat and jacket that I thought made me look like Glenn Gould, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB8fOduxT8w if you’d like to check that out. (2009)
“Why Am I Your Guy?” was written in 1985. It was originally on a 1986 tape called Fashion Poisoning (one of a series of cassettes called The Tar Tapes which my brother Marty and I produced during that exciting decade). This song probably gave me more grief than any other on Sluggo! in terms of its overall timbre, and achieving precisely the musical message I wanted it to convey. I re-recorded the guitar tracks at least five times. At first it was raging electric guitars all the way through and a much more antagonistic lead vocal, but I got bored with it – it was entirely too much like any number of featureless neo-wave bands that MTV was forced to show in its early years when they were desperate for programming. I wasn’t trusting the song’s own momentum. Finally I decided on the chiming acoustic guitars with virtually inaudible mood-synth, along with a more resigned vocal, for the first half of the verses, and that felt like an alluring texture to me – it wasn’t so pushy but the message was still conveyed. In that regard this song is more in debt to Radiohead’s OK Computer than anything else on Sluggo!. (2013 note: for the 2013 remix, given the luxury of time, we were able to work some electric guitar texture back into the verses, as we still had all the original electric guitar tracks which were muted in the original mix.) My album was well on the road to completion when I first heard Radiohead’s album (which ended up taking over my head and my life for most of 1998), which is probably a good thing – my indebtedness might well have been a lot less subtle otherwise. A ridiculous thing: we recorded a basic track of the song, and Beller was on fire (playing the bass track you hear on the album), but Toss was not satisfied with his own performance. We were all so into Bryan’s bass track that Toss re-recorded his drums to it, with NO CLICK TRACK – if you’re a drummer, please listen to Bryan’s performance here, and then imagine having to overdub Toss’ drum part to it, in one uninterrupted take, without a click – I’m glad I got to see that. (1998, with interjections from 2009 and 2013)
“Looking For Nina” was one of several tracks on Sluggo! (see also “I Think I’ll Peanut”) which fulfilled my need (which persists on every album I’ve done since) to include something which isn’t explainable in any rational way – the kind of song which is hard to believe actually exists. The lyrics, though, aren’t all that oblique, being a pretty straightforward tribute to caricaturist Al Hirschfeld and his habit of hiding his daughter Nina’s name in the hair of his subjects. The ethereal music in the background of the verses was composed and created by Frank Briggs. (One of the elements Frank used in constructing the synth texture was a sample of me singing “hat hat hat hat hat” from “hat.”) The whole track was recorded in Frank’s garage studio (formerly Chad Wackerman’s), and, for the mid-90s, he had some pretty happening digital software. This track was my first experience with cutting and pasting musical phrases digitally to create a song structure, a process that delighted me then and still does. Different drum patterns and bass licks were sampled and I triggered them on a keyboard, building the rhythm track that way. Lyrically the song moves bizarrely through a number of tangents: the “Taco Physique” section was dedicated to Ahmet Zappa, and I always imagined some freaked-out Sammy Davis Jr. idolizer performing it on a 70s-era Muscular Dystrophy telethon. “Pasion” was inspired by a sign on Ventura Blvd. which I used to drive by all the time, and I imagined it as some kind of horrendous Eurotrash pop sensation song. “I Got A Pocket Full Of Cashola” was a Beasties Boys tribute and went on for two full verses in the original analog mix, rather than just one line as it ended up here. [2013 note: the full un-edited “Cashola” section will feature in the remix contained in the upcoming reissue.] On the little “brought to you by” section right after it, you can hear echoes of the Patty Duke Show theme (it was part of a more elaborate ending which featured in the rejected analog mix, but was ultimately too weird even for me). (2009)
“Frozen Beef (Come With Me)” was put together during spare moments at Z rehearsals, while Bryan, Joe and I were waiting for Dweezil and Ahmet to arrive. (The song “Bob Dylan’s Nose” was also put together in the same way during this time; although it was written for inclusion on this album it was never recorded in the studio, and the only released version of it was a live performance on the Soap Scum Remover videocassette, slated for DVD release by Exowax on one of the fine, fine days to come in our shared future.) [2013 note: a instrumental rehearsal take of “Bob Dylan’s Nose,” as well as an early version of “Frozen Beef,” will be included in the upcoming Sluggo! reissue.] This song featured my favorite recorded guitar solo up to this point in my career, played on the John Carruthers-modified SG given to me by Rich Lewis. I never learned this solo for playing the song live; too precious about “the moment,” I kept trying to improvise better solos but never managed to. If we ever re-introduce this song to the live repertoire I will happily admit defeat and re-learn this solo note for note. [2013 note: I actually did! I re-learned the solo for the Keneally/Musallam duo tour in late 2012 and continued to play it during the MKB European tour of 2013.] I’m happy with these lyrics, a reasonably incisive and well-rhymed character study of a personality type pretty prevalent in the 90s. (2009)
At one 1995 Bourbon Square show “Frozen Beef” became “Don’t Play At Luna Park”. Luna Park is a club in Santa Monica where BFD had just done a show, and the attitude of management when it was time to get paid pissed me off a lot, so I vented in song. The one remaining Luna Park reference in the lyrics can be traced to all of that. (1998)
“TRANQUILLADO” (no special reason for the all-caps title, that was just the dog’s name) is a piano-based composition that hits a particular vein of whimsy that I only manage to touch on occasionally. Makes me happy. When I was a teenager I imagined making a living out of writing and recording stuff like this. Didn’t happen, but it’s nice to be able to have songs like this, that come from a part of me that I barely understand at all but quite enjoy, come to life every once in a while. (I think Scambot comes from a similar place.) This song is really hard to play and sing well live, but you can find us taking a good shot at it on the Guitar Therapy Live DVD. (2009)
I initially recorded a version with me doing all the vocals and never got off on it. I’m glad it finally occurred to me to get Mark Decerbo and Bob Tedde to sing the lion’s share of the tune. “hat.” had prominently featured singing voices not my own, and I realized that I missed the variety. I like the early-Steely Dan-ish guitar solo. This song stems from a piece of “fiction” which I wrote for Carbon 14 magazine’s fifth issue (Summer ’94). Wanna read it?: (1998)
THE REASONS FOR ONE HUNDRED AND SIX THINGS NOT TO OCCUR, WITH TREMENDOUS
Insane Harry was blue and it didn’t stop him. Exploding along the gutter like a sink, he ran but it wasn’t really. Before long a woman whispered the truth and it sunk him.
Five years later we find Harry bereft, dangling and with a little furry puppy by his side in the alley. The pup’s name is TRANQUILLADO and this is his story.
Once upon a time TRANQUILLADO explored options, now though he sits with Insane Harry and tries to plant positive thoughts through osmosis. Harry doesn’t bite, he gets greasier and sadder and may die.
Flash forward to 1998. The same woman drives up returning and whispers the truth again to Harry, but it’s been updated and works somewhat more efficiently. Harry smiles and flies, leaving TRANQUILLADO alone by himself even!
TRANQUILLADO thinks: “What if anything have I done to deserve this? Thoughts?”
The woman suggests that it’s time the pup examine his own motives and perhaps get a bite to eat in the process. The two of them buy cones at the Denta-Freeze and mull.
There was no reason for what happened next and I don’t feel like writing about it.
Five years later TRANQUILLADO was doing OK, not great, exploring options at a convenience store in one of the more detail-intensive areas of Phoenix, not far from where that thing happened that one time. These two kids who look like they have bad intentions wandered in, one of ’em made fun of TRANQUILLADO’s matted fur.
The pup really has to bear down and not lose it. He has the power to decimate these ragged youths. What to do, and how not to do it?
Insane Harry descends at the right moment and passes the truth, updated yet further and really slick, on to TRANQUILLADO just when he like really really needs it. TRANQUILLADO smiles and flies with Insane Harry, just to where Harry’s been for the last few years (a fine old place – a lot of trees), leaving the ill-intentioned youngsters to consider changing their ways.
One of ’em did! He’s doing great now!
And the other?
Well, that’s another story.
It goes like this:
You don’t wanna know.
– Mike Keneally (1994)
“What Happened Next” was recorded during the “Boil That Dust Speck” sessions, it’s one of a bunch of little link items which I recorded with Tom Freeman (others were “Lemon-Freshened Borax” and “Bryan Beller’s Favorite Song”, and yet more were collaged into “Helen Was Brash” and “O’Bannon”). There’re still a couple of good ones I haven’t released yet. [2013 note: actually, these remaining links can now be found in the audio archive on the DVD that comes with the 2007 Boil That Dust Speck special edition.] Tom plays fantastically well on this. I love to play bass and this song is my chance to have a good time soloing on it. In the original running order for “Boil That Dust Speck” this song was to come right after “Blameless (The Floating Face)”, and if you check out the lyrics to that song, the title of this one makes more sense. However if you read the story above (THE REASONS FOR ONE HUNDRED AND SIX THINGS NOT TO OCCUR) carefully enough, you’ll have seen that I provided myself with an equally good reason to insert this piece after “TRANQUILLADO”. The modular approach to album sequencing: a never-ending source of wholesome fun. (1998)
The vocals on this piece are me singing the words “Dio Fa” (the name of a beautiful composition from Frank Zappa’s Civilization Phaze III which was really haunting me at the time), with the tape reversed so it sounds like “ahf oid.” Ah, tape. (2009)
In the days before Scott Chatfield became my manager and then started Exowax Recordings with me, he was just my pal in whose home I found comfort. Now, in 2009, I sit in his home typing these notes, and Chatfield Manor means work, work, work! – but back in those days Scott’s house was one thing to me above all, a place to chill. I managed to write and record “Chatfield Manor” without Scott knowing about it (which was a task, since he was aware of every other minute detail about the making of the album) and the first he knew of the song was when the finished CD was in his hands. (2009)
Maybe Scott will chime in and describe his reaction. Maybe not.
“Maybe yes! ‘Twas one of the most wondrous of our life’s surprises. Mo and I were sitting in the car after attending a preview screening of “Kiss Or Kill” (two thumbs down) when I suggested we listen to the newly Suzanne-delivered CD during our ride home. Before departing, I allowed myself a few seconds to thumb through atticus wolrab’s too-cool-for-words booklet. I hit a mental speed bump when I saw the song title– before name recognition dawned, I was struck by a fleeting indignant stab of “what’s this unfamiliar song doing here, then?” before it melted into the genesis of comprehension. The peculiar sensation of shock blossoming into exquisite surprise is something neither of us will soon forget.
At this point, Mo recounts my making numerous n’ noisy “exclamations of delight.” To savor the event, we listened to “Potato” first as we drove, then punched up Song # 8 (code-named as part of Mike and friends’ elaborate and successful deception). The song unfolded like an exotic, evocative, yet somehow familiar, dream and we were re-humming the chorus after first listen.
Any mild embarrassment I feel due to the song’s eponymous-ity (I can’t sing along with the chorus without feeling a mite self-conscious) is more than offset by my radiant thanksgiving for friends like Mike, Bryan, and all the others who somehow decided that Mo and I and Abode were worthy of such vast creativity and conspiracy. But even if it were called “Flapjack Junction,” I do believe the song would still be one of my favorites. Bravo!
– Scott” (1998)
It was an unusual song for me in every respect, taking its sweet time instead of crashing from section to section, and the open welcoming quality I found (and still find) in Scott’s home was successfully translated to the primary 12-string guitar part, in altered tuning (D A D A B D). It’s probably the most heavily requested song I hardly ever play – there’s never enough time to get all the vocal harmonies right, the tuning is a hassle and I never gig with a 12-string anyway – and I don’t think this recording can be improved upon in any case. It’s a perfect little time capsule for me. (2009)
(As it happened, in 2010 when the band was expanded to five pieces with the addition of Griff Peters, I did decide to bring this song back into the repertoire, as can be heard on bakin’ @ the potato! The vocal harmonies are still a struggle to nail live, but the extra guitar gave the song the heft it required, and we managed to get a nice rendition for the live album. And, if I say so myself, the new mix of this song on the coming reissue has improved upon this studio recording.) (2013)
Anyway, this song demonstrates my desire to have some songs on this album that normal people might conceivably be able to relate to; I think a lot of people have a sort of “home away from home” which acts as a fortress against the vagaries of a cruel and brutal world, or something. Scott said this song reminded him of the song “Paisley Park”, but whereas to me Prince’s material often feels like “this is my world – you can’t come in, but you can check out how fucking cool I am”, “Chatfield Manor” has, I hope, a more welcoming vibe – as Scott points out, I actually give you directions to the place. (1998)
“Beautiful,” a true story, depicts the events of December 2 1993 precisely as they occurred. It’s become a live favorite due to the vocal-and-guitar unison melody and the infectious groove, and I’m glad that something oddly joyful came out of a dark time for me. It was a hard day anyway, as it had become clear that Frank Zappa was not going to survive the weekend – that’s not explicit in the lyric but it was an undercurrent to the whole thing, which made the whole strange event more unsettling, as everything about the world already felt askew at the time. After the windshield incident, and then continuing on to At My Place in Santa Monica to watch Chad Wackerman play with his band, I went to a diner, sat with a pencil and some blank space in an issue of BAM magazine, and the words poured out. (2009)
They weren’t especially meant to be lyrics, I was just purging. During the blueprint stage of Boil That Dust Speck I had penciled in a song called “A Comforting Thought”, which was going to be these lyrics, set to a far more dirge-like musical backdrop and culminating in a hail of Janov-style primal screaming. Thank fuck I didn’t let myself get away with that. Nearly four years of distance from the actual event allowed me to take a lighter view of the whole thing, and set it to this jaunty groove. A grand piano track for this song was recorded at Signature (the song was composed on piano), but Toss felt his groove hampered while attempting to overdub drums onto my erratically paced piano performance, so we scrapped it and recorded the whole thing from scratch at Double Time. Good thing – the guitar-based arrangement had a lot more air in it, and this is the sort of groove that Toss was born to devour. The guitar solo at the end was a trip since I hadn’t studied the underlying changes to any great degree after writing them, so improvising over them was a challenge. The results are a semi-persuasive argument for the occasional merits of ignorance. (Dave Gregory liked the solo, so, cool.) The vocal and guitar parts in the verses were not recorded simultaneously, but have since been performed that way live. It’s sort of a “Jazz Discharge” trip, and Steve Vai was kind enough to tell me that after he heard “Beautiful” a few times, the technical aspects of the performance assumed less significance and it just turned into a cool melody. Actually he said “how DARE you do something so cool”. That was nice to hear.
Aside to Beach Boys enthusiasts: conceptually, “Chatfield Manor” and “Beautiful” together sort of add up to “Busy Doin’ Nothing,” hence their proximity in the running order. (1998)
“I Guess I’ll Peanut” was scored out very carefully on manuscript paper, sitting at the dining room table at Chatfield Manor. The version on the album is actually only one-third of the entire composition, but after completing that much of the song in the studio I felt that recording anything further would be superfluous. Maybe I’ll do the second and third sections on later albums. (2013 note: maybe not!) The title is something from a dream I had: it was a televised live Beer For Dolphins performance, and Linda McCartney introduced us (we were like a ten piece BFD with horns and stuff, we sounded amazing) and when we were done playing and the audience was applauding, Linda came over and put her arm around my shoulders and said “I guess I’ll peanut!” I woke up laughing. (1998)
(2013 note: never thought of this before, but maybe the eight-piece Dancing band was an attempt to approach the sound of the band in the dream I’d had? Hmmm.)
Many of the strange noises in this “song” are from a CD box set of sound effects I had, and the placement of all these effects were notated in the score. The last sound in the song is a humpback whale. (2009)
I don’t know if I’ve ever consciously examined the extent to which Sluggo! is a diary, but I’m realizing it now – while there is some fanciful stuff (“TRANQUILLADO” in particular), very many of the words on this album are straight ahead reportage. “Voyage To Manhood” is another true story, of a night spent with my brother Marty and a bunch of our friends, drinking a lot of imported beer and throwing all of our host’s collection of beer coasters at the ceiling fan in his loft (with his blessing). They make a really satisfying THOK sound, then go flying all over the place, so the twin sources of delight and anticipation were 1) how loud the noise was going to be and 2) where the thing was going to land. We decimated his coaster collection for at least four hours straight. We were possessed. When it was over I drifted off to sleep, totally exhausted, in a guest room, to the sound of Neil Young’s Live Rust album being blasted in the loft. I couldn’t stop smiling as I passed out and I realize now that this was one of the true idyllic occasions in my life. The opening figure of this song was written in the front lounge of the Vai tour bus during the first G3 tour, another pretty idyllic situation come to think of it, and recorded using a nifty mini-Telecaster-shaped electric mandolin that Rich Lewis loaned to me. I used it live on “Skunk” a few times. (2009)
“Egg Zooming” was another entirely scored piece, written on the road during the Asian and South American Steve Vai tours in 1997, in airplanes, airports and hotel rooms. Mike Mangini, the drummer for the Vai band, glanced at the score while I was working on it on the plane, and took note of some difficult simultaneous rhythms in the guitar and keyboard during the opening fanfare, that were never meant to be played by one person at one time. He pointed at the section and said, “I can do that.” I knew then that he was the guy to record the song. He nailed it in the studio very quickly and superbly – it’s my favorite Mangini performance ever, and it’s become justifiably revered by a lot of drummers who are into this sort of thing. (You can see Mangini’s own thoughts on the song at http://mikemangini.com/eggzooming.htm .) The bass part on the verse is a ridiculous contrapuntal contraption that gets thrown back and forth between two basses. Beller had every nuance of the chart nailed long before he came to the studio, and all the bass parts were recorded within an hour. This song benefited HUGELY from the commitment, preparedness and chops of Mangini and Bryan. The guitar solo was played on a magical instrument with a picture of a clown on it, given to me by Chris, the guitarist from the band Faux Pas. (2009)
There’s one instrument I forgot to list in the liner notes; the horrid whining noise at the end of the drum solo is a blue balloon I borrowed from my daughter Jesse. It had a little hole torn in it, and by manipulating the tear-hole with an index finger while blowing into the main hole, you can make it sound kind of like Anthony Braxton. (1998)
The long outro and fade-out, featuring dueling guitar and Moog solos on either side of the stereo spectrum, was an homage to the end of “Sunburst Finish” from the RA album by Utopia. I always thought that was a nice way to end an album side, and “Egg Zooming” is at the end of the “Side Three” suggested by the segmented song list on the back cover of the CD, even though this album has not hit vinyl (yet). (2013)
Be careful in Bangkok, kids, or you might end up writing an ulcerous piece of self-loathing like “Own.” I remember working up the main guitar structure of the song, which I think is a rocking guitar part, sitting in the control room of Steve Vai’s studio. We ended up running it through a Leslie speaker in the studio, which is just an addictive sound for me. Bryan and Joe learned the song in the studio just prior to recording; yet more superhuman activity from my compadres. This used to be one of the songs I’d use to beat myself up in public onstage, self-indulgently primal-screaming away as though I needed, in that one moment, to atone for everything I’d ever done wrong in life. I don’t do that any more (and the performances nowadays are better). There’s a pretty rocking version of this song as well on the Guitar Therapy Live DVD. (2009)
“I’m Afraid” is a completely guileless song that I wrote about my daughter. I was spending endless amounts of time on the road and feeling bad about being away. Now, thirteen or so years later, we’re spending some of our most quality time making music together – her vocals on Scambot are going to send chills up your spine. This song has an inherent sentimentality that was unavoidable given how I was feeling, and it was pretty polarizing among some of my fans, some feeling that it was unforgivably sappy. It is an unusual song for me in that regard, but I’m glad to have expressed myself in a completely un-ironic way. The photo of my charred sneakers in the booklet was taken on the night the Vai tour bus caught on fire. We all lost a lot of stuff (Jesse, three years old at the time, was especially fascinated that my shoes had been burnt, and would tell everyone that “The Big Bus” had burnt up, something which found its way into the lyric). (2009)
Now she’s in college. Time, man. It doesn’t stop. (2013)
“Cardboard Dog” is the sequel to “Spearmint Pup” from the hat. album. At the time I wrote “Spearmint Pup” I didn’t understand it; once I finally figured out what it meant to me – it’s not pretty – I felt a compulsion to wind up the plotline, at least in my own head. The piano part on this song is a beast, but a lot of fun to play, and overdubbing other instruments to it (especially the drums) was sheer joy for me. The first part of the song, the bit with the lyrics, is me in “art song” mode, and follows on from a sequence of tunes which consists primarily of “Spearmint Pup,” “Here Is What I Dreamed,” “Spoon Guy” (original studio version), “Top Of Stove Melting,” “Blameless (The Floating Face),” “Natty Trousers,” “There Have Been Bad Moments,” “Career Politicians” (original studio version), “Ennui (prelude)” and “Airport.” I’m hard-pressed to specify precisely what it is about these songs that makes them one cohesive group in my mind, but there’s something there, and if any one of my albums didn’t contain at least one such specimen I’d feel that there was something terribly important missing. Regarding the massed vocals on the restatement of the opening melody towards the end of “Cardboard Dog”: in my handwritten notes to myself for this song, I wrote “BG Vox on end: EQUAL VOLUME DOUBLED REVERBED HUGE. THIS IS THE CLIMAX OF THE ALBUM, DORK.” “Equal volume” means each note being sung in the chords must be equally audible – I wanted those chords to rage. (1998)
“Cardboard Dog” is a thing in my life that makes me very, very happy. I set the bar high for myself on this song and it was executed precisely as I’d hoped. A dream come true, essentially, and I’m extremely grateful for it. (2009)
“Sluggo” was me bringing my love of Thelonious Monk and Vince Guaraldi to the album. Kind of presumptuous, maybe, for a rock and roll guitar player? I didn’t care – I was obviously in a piano frame of mind on this album and I wanted to explore that in a lot of different styles, and even though I’m not a bebopper, it didn’t feel too sacrilegious to give this sort of thing a whirl. It does not horrify me today, so I judge the experiment a success, but right now I’d like to relearn this piece and play the hell out of it the way it ought to be played the hell out of. (2009)
And that’s Sluggo! Hot damn!
The aforementioned Sluggo! CD reissue was released in December 2013, in four formats, each with lots of goodies.
My 1997 album Sluggo! has been out of print forever, but it’s finally back!
It’s available in a variety of formats featuring a great deal of unreleased audio and video material, and featuring new stereo and surround mixes of the Sluggo! album.
I’ve always felt the album is really good, but I’ve had reservations about the mix forever. It’s a long story (told at length in the new liner notes in the reissue packaging), but the upshot is I’m finally completely happy with the sound of the album. Sixteen years after recording it, I finally feel like I’ve finished Sluggo!
- Same-day download of the 2013 Stereo Mix of Sluggo! in mp3 or FLAC
- CD with 2013 Stereo Mix of Sluggo! plus 2 bonus tracks
- DVD-A with PCM 16/48 Stereo, DTS 24/48 5.1 Digital Surround, MLP 24/96 Lossless Stereo & MLP 24/96 Lossless 5.1 Surround
- DVD with over two hours of unreleased stereo live and studio video material, a commentary track by Mike, the original 1997 stereo mix, more bonus audio tracks, shots of the original tracking sheets and more
- Digipak & 20-page booklet with all original artwork plus new liner notes
Disc one is a CD containing the new stereo mix of Sluggo! (done in 2012 and 2013 by Mike Harris and myself), plus two bonus tracks.
2. I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound
3. Why Am I Your Guy?
4. Looking For Nina
5. Frozen Beef
7. What Happened Next
8. Chatfield Manor
10.”I Guess I’ll Peanut”
11. Voyage To Manhood
12. Egg Zooming
14. I’m Afraid
15. Cardboard Dog
18. Bob Dylan’s Nose (studio version)
“Craney” was recorded during the Sluggo! sessions, and originally released on Something With A Pulse, a benefit record for drummer Mark Craney. “Bob Dylan’s Nose” was previously only available in a live version on the Soap Scum Remover VHS); it was originally intended to be part of Sluggo! This studio version of “Nose” was never completed, but it is a pretty scorching track recorded live in the studio by Bryan Beller, Joe Travers and myself.
Disc two is a DVD-Audio disc with the complete album in:
PCM 16/48 Stereo
DTS 24/48 5.1 Digital Surround
MLP 24/96 Lossless Stereo
MLP 24/96 Lossless 5.1 Surround
Disc Three is a standard DVD containing a plethora of material, including over two hours of live and studio video footage, the original 1997 Sluggo! CD mix, more bonus tracks, and additional ephemera.
1. MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS
Club Tavern – Madison, WI – 8/8/98
1. Frang Tang, The Valentine Bear
2. Killer Fish
3. Voyage To Manhood
4. Top of Stove Melting
5. Egg Zooming coda
6. My Dilemma
7. Spoon Guy
10. Frozen Beef
11. Day Of The Cow 1
13. Day Of The Cow 2
14. Pencil Music/Credits
2. MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS
Club Clearview – Dallas, TX – 8/26/98
2. ‘Cause Of Breakfast
3. Frozen Beef
4. I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound
3. MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS
Sacred Ground – San Pedro, CA – 6/12/98
2. TRANQUILLADO (rare live version with Mark DeCerbo and Bob Tedde on vocals)
4. SLUGGO! PIANO SESSIONS
Footage from Signature Sound Studio of the original album sessions, with MK on grand piano
1. SLUGGO take 1 (master)
2. SLUGGO take 2 (unreleased alternate)
3. DRUM-RUNNING take 2 (unreleased, incomplete)
4. DRUM-RUNNING take 3 (master)
5. TRANQUILLADO take 1 (excerpt; unreleased, incomplete)
6. TRANQUILLADO take 2 (unreleased, incomplete)
7. TRANQUILLADO take 5 (complete; some parts are in final master)
8. DRUM-RUNNING take 4 (unreleased alternate)
9. TRANQUILLADO take 6 (complete; some parts are in the final master)
5. SLUGGO! 1997 CD mix
2. I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound
3. Why Am I Your Guy?
4. Looking For Nina
5. Frozen Beef
7. What Happened Next
8. Chatfield Manor
10.”I Guess I’ll Peanut”
11. Voyage To Manhood
12. Egg Zooming
14. I’m Afraid
15. Cardboard Dog
6. BONUS TRACKS
2. Bob Dylan’s Nose
3. Frozen Beef (original studio demo recorded in 1996)
4. Cardboard Dog (solo piano track)
7. ORIGINAL TRACKING SHEETS FROM THE SLUGGO! DOUBLE TIME STUDIO SESSIONS
Accompanied by reduction mixes from the multi-tracks
Featuring photos from the 1998 tours and an instrumental mix of “I’m Afraid”
9. COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF MENU MUSIC
With unreleased snippets, reduction mixes from the multi-tracks and an unreleased piano solo version of “Beautiful”
Plus some additional stuff for you to poke around and discover.
Signed, numbered edition of 1000
Contains all items in Sluggo! Deluxe above, PLUS:
- Live At Mama Kin, a CD of Mike Keneally & Beer for Dolphins performing live in Boston on August 15, 1998 (newly mixed by Mike Keneally and Mike Harris)
- Hand-numbered and signed by Mike Keneally
MIKE KENEALLY & BEER FOR DOLPHINS
LIVE AT MAMA KIN
Boston, MA August 15 1998
1. Guest Host Intro
3. Immigrant Song
4. Natty Trousers
5. Why Am I Your Guy?
6. Them Dolphins Is Smart
7. 1988 Was A Million Years Ago
8. Yep, Them Dolphins Is Smart, Alright
9. Bullys (sic)
13. Pencil Music
14. The Car Song
15. Voyage To Manhood
16. Top of Stove Melting
17. Inca Roads
3) Sluggo! 2013 Stereo Mix download in mp3 or FLAC
4) Sluggo! Original (1997) Stereo Mix download in mp3 or FLAC
Immune Records / IMM1019 / 1997 (cd – OOP)
Exowax / EX2305d / 2009 (download)
Exowax / EX2305-1 / 2013 (1 or 2cd-2dvd)