This is the third in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part I: The Early Years, and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf.
Both during and after my time with the hardcore punk band Kulturkampf, I spent a fair amount of time writing music. In the beginning, both the lyrics and music were woefully amateurish. However, I was maturing quickly as a musician, studying classical guitar under Ed Brown, and maturing quickly as a young adult; as a result, the music I wrote quickly improved.
The Home Recordings
As is common with me, most of the songs I wrote were never completed. What few I did finish writing, I recorded in my makeshift home studio, playing guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards; scripting simple drum tracks (on an Alesis HR-16 drum machine); and recording it on a TASCAM Portastudio 4-track recorder.
The songs I wrote reflected my taste in music at the time: a blend of hard rock of the 70s and 80s, progressive rock, and heavy metal. I wrote songs out of inspiration; as a result, they were reflective and often melancholy, usually written from the perspective of someone looking to the past rather than the future.
Unfortunately, none of these recordings survived over the years. Then again, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to share them with you if they had! What did survive, however, is some sheet music and lyrics, but nothing that makes any sense to me today.
Dirt Man’s King
In college, I teamed up with guitarist/singer Bart Cambria. He had just finished writing and recording a six-song demo with his band. We played one gig doing those tunes; I played rhythm guitar and keyboards and sang background vocals. The songs were in the heavy metal/progressive rock genre, and were decent, but Bart and I soon moved into a new direction.
Scott Mesorana, the drummer and creative force behind Kulturkampf, wrote the lyrics to three songs of a “concept album” and handed them off to Bart, who in turn shared them with me. The lyrics were good, and told the story of a reluctant prophet and leader of men. It was up to me and Bart to come up with the music.
The initial musical inspiration came one afternoon, when Bart and I wrote the basic chord progressions to the first two songs. Back in my home studio, I hashed out more details to the arrangement, adding drum tracks and keyboards. It wasn’t long before we had written all three songs, including a musical interlude between the first and second song. We began rehearsing the songs with a bass player and drummer, and the following winter we recorded the songs in a professional recording studio in Manhattan.
Sadly, the story of those songs ended soon thereafter. For whatever reason, we stopped playing together, the songs forever relegated to the dust bin of my basement. Thankfully, I held on to the recordings, and recently copied them to MP3 format. With no further fanfare, I present to you the music of what came to be known as Dirt Man’s King (when you hear the lyrics, you’ll know why).
Dirt Man’s King
World of Wonder (instrumental)
The Great and Secret Show
Words by Scott Mesorana
Music by Bart Cambria and Brian DeMarzo
What happened next for me? It was the end of the line for me trying to write original music. Instead, I started playing other people’s songs, and before long was in a band again. Over a hundred shows later… but that’s a story for the next blog post.