Dan Boeckner and I spoke last week about the creation of Apologies to the Queen Mary. The last 7 parts of this conversation have been about the recording process and the year it took for the record to come together.
These next two parts are more personal. Dan spoke frankly with me about his personal life. He wanted to share with the fans what he was dealing with personally and how those events inspired his lyrics for his songs on Apologies. I want to truly thank Dan for sharing this with us. You can read today’s post in full here.
A lot of the songs on that first record are about Cowichan Lake. I’m a 15-minute drive from there right now. I’m gonna have dinner tonight at the house where a lot of those, at least the psychological component of those songs were born and incubated. I was trying to have my own voice and I think I figured it out on that record, just naturally. Cause the stuff I had done up to till then was really informed by a lot of other musicians, people I worked with in Victoria, a lot of the Atlas Strategic stuff has like wacky science fiction components in it, with failed attempts at humor. Before I moved to Montreal, my Mom died in a pretty horrible way. She had been ill for a really long time, since I was a child, with systemic Lupus. We always had these groups of doctors saying ‘all right get ready she’s gonna die, everybody prepare for the inevitable’. But it would just never happen. She’d always pull out of it at the last minute. Her lupus would go into remission and this was the backdrop to my childhood, up until I was in my mid 20’s.
Here’s the early EP version of Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts. From Wolf Parade’s self released EP 2. You can purchase it from Cheap Thrills:
Spencer Krug explains what the song is about and talks about the recording of the track in a 2005 interview with Cokemachineglow.com. Read this in full here.
In one particular Buddhist religion – and don’t ask me why I referred to something Buddhist – but there are these neat characters in Buddhism that are these tortured characters. They symbolize one of the levels of Hell. I forget the name for it – but there are a bunch of different levels of Hell, and one of them is this level where hypocrites and liars go; not the worst sins, sort of middle-ground punishment. And when they get there, they turn into hungry ghosts, that’s the best translation for it. And hungry ghosts are always thirsty, and always hungry. They’re sort of like that character Tantalus in Greek mythology: he can’t eat or drink, but he’s always hungry or thirsty. And these ghosts, they have really tiny throats, so if they try to eat, it chokes them and they die, because they only have these little straws for throats. I THINK that when they drink water it turns into fire. Yeah, so Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts is addressing my own generation, I guess. Insatiable thirsts, and hunger for whatever.
Fan made videos and art
Illustration by David Jackson. Inspired by Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts. Check out his amazing prints at InkPatch.net
You can see all the photos, videos, and illustrations inspired by Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts here.
Here is Part 7 of my talk with Dan about the recording of ‘Apologies’. Stay tuned for two more chapters from our talk, where Dan tells me about the inspiration behind his tracks from the record.
After we left the session (in Portland) they lost the multitrack version of Shine a Light. So when we got back to Montreal there was no Shine a Light. We had recorded Killing Armies and Shine a Light around the same time and I believe those are on the missing reels. We never got those reels back. So we had to re-record Shine A Light in Montreal. The existing version of that song is recorded on a Mac G-3 with a couple SM 57 mics and Tim Kingsbury playing bass. The version of Shine a Light that came out is not the studio version. We recorded it at our jam space on home recording equipment basically and just slotted it in with the record. Disco Sheets was also recorded this way.
Here’s an early version from the CBC Radio 3 session:
I still remember the first time I heard “Shine a Light.” I’d gotten a copy of Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, and inexcusably slept on it for a while – I seem to do that with every album that becomes an all-time favourite – but when iTunes shuffled into this song sometime in 2006, I was floored. The opening riff is pure joy; what could it bring? A flood of synths, for one, then words more defiant than they first seem: Dan Boeckner doesn’t sleep ‘til it’s light; whiles away in an office tower; slogs away on public transit as he heads home to his loved one. Spencer Krug’s backing vocals kick in, no consonants, just sound, a synth of their own. Boeckner admits to waiting on something that’ll never arrive; but then, as Krug’s rejoicing vocals chug along, Boeckner builds another world instead of ceding control.
We got back to Montreal and I didn’t have a copy of the record. Nobody had a copy of the record. We couldn’t listen to it. Then we stopped hearing back from Isaac. So we had done this thing and nobody knew what it sounded like, it only existed in our minds. I was so fucking broke I was living on my friend’s couch in Hochelaga, which is a shitty suburb of Montreal. My girlfriend at the time had moved to Taiwan. So I just worked my ass off at my job for a month, saved up for a plane ticket, and flew to Taipei. When I got there she broke up with me and I lived in Taiwan for 3 ½ months after that. All in the back of my mind I’m thinking, there’s like a record, we did a record.
Possibly the only live version of this track was recorded at the CBC Radio 3 Sessions in November 2004.
There’s no question the lonesome crowded sound is here, but when Wolf Parade dig in and dust off their influences, the band rolls like a Ritalin-deprived power-Bowie or 70s Eno flexing piano-based hooks over Pixified rhythms. Component ingredients include electronics, keyboards, guitar, drums, and two spastically surging, forever tuneful vocalists (Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug), but there are also surprises: A theremin cries in the slow-poke “Same Ghost Every Night”– one of the longer tracks, it grows in pageantry as it swells to the six-minute mark
I found this short film titled ‘Same Ghost Every Night’ by writer/director Darren Anderson. Wolf Parade’s song ‘Fine Young Cannibals’ is playing at the 7:59 mark:
Check out the rest of the videos and photos as well as part 6 of my talk with Dan on the Same Ghost Every Night page.
Track 5 from Apologies To The Queen Mary is Fancy Claps
Here’s Part 5 from my talk with Dan. You can read the full post on the Fancy Claps page.
After ATP we toured our way back to Montreal. And that tour was fucking insane. It was everybody in the van. No one was coming to the shows. This is November 2004. So we played these small clubs that were huge distances from each other on a routing that would eventually get us back on Montreal. We played a terrible show in Phoenix where no one showed up, then drove to Denton, Texas and played an 80’s night between DJ’s. Our next show was in St Louis and that was kind of the nadir of the trip. It was our last show before we were supposed to go home. We played a show in Arkansas where Hadji passed out at the show, literally fell asleep on stage. We were just ground down. We had literally been out for over a month at this point, all of us getting pretty feral. I think the worst part of that whole thing, which started with us driving out to Portland to make the record, was when we played in St Louis at the Rocket Bar. That venue is basically the downstairs is the bar, there was a little step down to the bar and that’s where all the locals hang out. But if you pay a cover you could step up these tiny stairs and go see a band. The people that don’t pay cover are still in the bar and maybe they’re heckling you from there.
Love this cover that Brittany Scheffler submitted:
“We Built Another World” is about this time she and I went to a Halloween party and got thrown out for breakdancing. And also fighting with some people. We were super-drunk and on this street laughing, and it started snowing. It was the first snow I’d ever seen in Montreal. And we ended up in the back of this cab just making out.
Listen to this early version from EP 2, which you can purchase from Cheap Thrills
Oh my god man, I mean just listen to “We Built a Another World”. That’s the track that’s about how awful it is go out at night to parties, but how you’ve got to because that’s the only place you can exist on your own terms. There’s a feeling of being trapped there, a feeling that you could call Springsteen-ian if you wanted, of poetry and romanticism, but the two meet each other and never resolve. “I had a bad, bad time tonight” goes the chorus. There’s such a footstomping beat to its chorus, its determination whim the low “whoa whoa”s that you can’t help sing along. The catchiest part of the song is the part where you can’t give up on what you’ve built.
A selection of Part 4 from my talk with Dan about the recording of Apologies:
After the CBC Radio 3 session Spencer and I flew down to Los Angeles to listen to mixes and mix with Chris Chandler and Isaac. I remember Issac had done a pretty great job mixing and Chris was backing him up. But we went to LA and we just didn’t like the mixes. They were very polished. Isaac had just come out of making Good News for People Who Like Bad News. Issac had never worked in a pop studio format before and I think he had to do all sorts of stuff he’d never done before. Like tons of vocal comping and having 4 pro tools set ups running at the same time. So he was in that mindset, with vocals way up front, like everything being really clean. I remember that being the biggest problem we had with the original mixes.
Here’s part of the incredible story of how the title of the record came to be, as told by Hadji Bakara in a 2006 interview:
The Queen Mary was basically the nexus and the sleeping quarters for everyone who was playing All Tomorrow’s Parties and the bar closed really early. I mean it was literally a boatload of musicians and the bar shut down at like midnight or something. Our friends from Frog Eyes were also in town, so they came down. Whenever closing time was, I don’t really remember, but at some point we eventually got kicked out of the bar. Security on the Queen Mary was nice enough, though, to unlock a door that got us onto this area of the boat that was usually restricted and told us that we could make as much noise as we wanted because we wouldn’t disturb anyone.
You can read the rest of the story and my conversation with Dan, as well as David Grossman’s essay at the main page for We Built Another World.
Track 3 from Apologies to the Queen Mary is Grounds for Divorce.
Here’s a selection from Part 3 of my talk with Dan Boeckner. You can read all of Part 3 plus fan videos and quotes on the Grounds For Divorce page.
We went up to Vancouver after the session (in Portland). The session had been pretty hard on everybody. I remember Hadji almost quit during it. It was fun and productive, to a point. We were a new band and we had never been in that kind of environment before. The only recording I’d ever done was at this studio in Victoria where they did Dayglo Abortions (Canadian punk band) records. That’s where all the Atlas Strategic stuff was recorded. And that was in this guy’s basement. So we had never been in a pro studio environment. It’s our debut record right, so there’s considerable amount of stress on the whole process and on us. Also the fact that we were totally fucking broke and stranded in Portland. We drove up to Vancouver Island and went our separate ways after the CBC Radio 3 session. I remember having to abandon our van on the way there because it was falling apart.
Spencer describes what the song is about in this 2005 interview:
‘Grounds for Divorce’ is just about breaking up. The divorce is symbolic, it’s not a real divorce. It’s more like two people, one is like “glass is half full”, the other doesn’t think so. You’re with someone long enough and you think ‘oh, we might get married,’ which is just a random thought you have when you’re with anyone; some days it looks like you will, and some days it looks like you won’t. So that’s where the divorce bit comes in, it’s not super deep, just playing with what’s already imaginary. That particular line, the whale thing, comes from this time when this person I was with was like ‘I fucking hate the sound of city buses screeching’ and I said ‘Just pretend they’re giant whales, floating around the city, singing to each other’ and she was like ‘That’s stupid.’
Listen this version from EP 2, which you can purchase from Cheap Thrills
This fan made video is so great!
Check out the Grounds For Divorce page to read all of Part 3 of my talk with Dan and for a bunch of great quotes and tweets of love for this amazing track!
Track 2 from Apologies To The Queen Mary is Modern World
Here’s a selection from Part 2 of my conversation with Dan Boeckner. You can read all of Part 2 plus check out fan submissions/art on the Modern World page here.
I was the closest to Isaac and what I didn’t realize is that he had never really made a record before with another band that wasn’t Modest Mouse. He was good, he had Chris Chandler there doing all the technical stuff and fixing engineering issues. He really pushed the band in a good direction with a lot of the songs. I think ‘…Father’s Son’ would not exist, and I don’t know maybe Spencer would disagree, if Isaac wasn’t at that session recording the drums and making us play this beat over and over again. The sound that Isaac was trying to create for us was something that we didn’t think we were capable of. We didn’t have a bass player and our pallet was always the Jupiter keyboard playing bass, and this sort of shrill guitar. I always had to play high leads to kinda cut through the sonic murk. Arlen just wailing away on the drums, with Hadji kinda fitting in wherever he could. So when we wrote songs that was our canvas. Going in and doing something like ‘Modern World’, for instance, acoustically, I don’t think that would have happened had Isaac not been involved in the process.
Listen to the very first version of Modern World from EP1!
Here’s the official video created by Adam Bizanski:
Quotes from Twitter
i'm inclined to believe that Wolf Parade's "Modern World" is the greatest song ever written.
And so it begins. The next 12 days I’ll be posting a track a day (in order) from Wolf Parade’s critically acclaimed first record ‘Apologies To The Queen Mary’.
Track 1 – You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son Lyrics
I spoke with Dan Boeckner recently about the genesis of the record, including the recording process in Portland, Oregon with Isaac Brock and the later sessions in Montreal. I’ll be posting parts of our conversation each day so stay tuned! Here’s some of part 1, you can read more here
The (first recording) session we did was 2 weeks to get everything done. But I also remember it being really really compressed for the vocal days cause basically we had taken a lot of time doing bed tracks and then we had gone over budget on the record. It was kinda a shit show, that whole recording session. We went over budget on the record, and it was crunch time. Isaac basically told me we had one maybe two sessions to do all the vocals. So I cut all the vocals for the record in one day. And that was pretty intense. I didn’t really know how to pace myself and my voice was already pretty blown out. I basically destroyed my voice by the time that session was over. It was pretty intense.
Below is just a small amount of submissions that were sent to me/that I found.
In July of 2005, Spencer Krug released his first solo record under the moniker ‘Sunset Rubdown’. The record, Snake’s Got A Leg, is a collection of low-fi tracks that Spencer recorded himself. Released by Global Symphonic, you can still purchase this record from either iTunes or from Absolutely Kosher records
The quote on Absolutely Kosher’s page says:
The “what was I thinking when I ignored this when it was released” debut from Montreal’s Spencer Krug, also of Frog Eyes and Wolf Parade. Rough and uncompromising, but gorgeous. Hell, it got our attention. On Global Symphonic.
I seriously could not agree more!!
Some facts on this record are that Spencer drew the cover art himself. From wiki:
Most of the material on this album was recorded by Spencer Krug using a cheap microphone connected to a standard PC in his bedroom. The songs were compiled from five different EPs, each in a different genre.
01 – The Dust that You Kick Up is Too Fine
02 – Snake’s Got a Leg
03 – I’ll Believe in Anything, You’ll Believe in Anything
04 – Hey You Handsome Vulture
05 – Hope You Don’t Stoop To Dirty Words
06 – Hope You Don’t Stoop To Dirty Words II
07 – Cecil’s Bells
08 – I Know the Weight of Your Throat
09 – Sol’s Song
10 – Stadiums and Shrines
11 – Snakes Got a Leg II
12 – Portrait of a Shiny Metal Boy
Check out Spencer’s solo version of ‘I’ll Believe in Anything’: