Track By Track : MFTJ - MFTJ

By John A. Wilcox

A brand spanking new collaboration between Mike Keneally & Scott Schorr! Here's Mr. Keneally to take you through the project:
I've been knowing Scott Schorr for, what, six years now? I first got to know him through Marco Minnemann. I was impressed with the promotion Scott was doing for Marco's album EEPS; it was getting more attention than such experimental, esoteric music generally gets, and I thought that his label Lazy Bones must have its act together to at least some degree. I ended up having dinner with him and Bryan Beller when a Joe Satriani tour went to New Zealand in November 2014, and we got along great.
Scott was interested in ideas I might have had for a trio album project for Lazy Bones, and we batted some ideas around, but other projects took precedence and the trio album didn't happen (yet). But we stayed in touch; in 2015, Scott and his wife Christine had relocated to Australia and came to see the Satriani band when we played there in November 2018. Scott and I really connected at that time, and then in January 2019 Scott wrote me with his idea for this album. He already had a bunch of rhythm tracks recorded, which he sent to me, and I went into Double Time recording studio (where I recorded solo albums like hat. and Boil That Dust Speck in the early '90s) to do overdubs. Jeff Forrest, the engineer, is still making records there � in an era where most pro recording studios have gone down the drain, Jeff and Double Time are still plugging away.
Jeff would play the tracks Scott had provided, and I would just start improvising along with them, on guitars, keys and bass. Occasionally I would hit on a motif I wanted to refine, and I'd have Jeff stop the recording while I worked out the best way to play the idea I had. I probably recorded something like ten tracks of stuff on each of the rhythm tracks. I sent Scott all of that stuff, and he went on to make sense of all of it, find the best bits and turn them into hooks, grooves, chord progressions, textures etc. Then he'd send me versions in progress and I'd either say "yeah that's perfect," or "hey how about trying this that or the other thing" to refine it further. It was an amazingly fun way to see an album come together over time; it only involved a couple of days in the studio for me, and then a certain amount of listening and suggestions, and Scott did the vast amount of editing required to turn it all into music.
The end result seems genuinely unique to our ears. I have no real idea how to categorize it; we had to tag it with genres for Bandcamp purposes, but, really, what the hell is it? Doesn't matter, right? I like the way it sounds, whatever it is.

Track 1: Liquid And Fumes
MK: The main riff at the beginning of this tune reminds of Genesis for some reason. I can't overemphasize how much I really don't remember playing any of the stuff you hear me play on this album! When I'm improvising I'm not really in a conscious mindset. Scott did an amazing job organizing all my ramblings into interesting, memorable motifs. Really cool bass and drum groove he came up with for this too. And he managed to isolate a tapping thing I did on the guitar and turn it into a solo that works � I hardly ever play like this, so it's neat that Scott featured that. Key signature-wise, the guitar solo is absolutely unrelated to what the bass is doing � I might be a little uptight about doing something like that on a finished track of my own, but Scott goes on pure sound and vibe, and it really freaking works here. (My wife Sarah thinks this song combines, in her words, "XTC chonk with industrial texture." No argument from me.)

Track 2: You're Not The Boss Of Me
MK:Really like the little synth melody Scott chose to start this track with. You have to understand his method � he probably isolated that from many minutes from synth screwing around that I did, and chose it to stick at the beginning of the track. He just has a great sense for things like that. (Wait, looking at the liner notes I see we both played synth on this � so maybe that's him on synth at the beginning? You'll have to ask him! I think it's me on KORG Karma though.) We both played bass on this too and it's a happy mystery to me who's playing what. This song makes me bounce around A LOT. I think this album is great for dancing, and while everyone is stuck at home they should download this album and dance like maniacs to it in their living room.

Track 3: Call Of The Corn
MK: This has me utlizing some of the harmonizer capabilities of the Fractal AxeFX III on the guitar. I have Devin Townsend to thank for hooking me up with Matt Piccone at Fractal; the AxeFX became a crucial aspect of my tone on the Zappa and Devin tours over the past year. It can do anything. It's absurd. I actually had two separate sessions for my overdubs on MFTJ, several months apart � for the first session I tracked through a KSR amplifier with a 4x12 cabinet, and on the second round I tracked all my guitars through the Fractal. This gave Scott two very distinct sets of tones to work with, and he did a fantastic job layering them in cool ways. Scott's drum playing and drum tone on this track are fantastic. I love the whole fuzz bass section at the end of this song. I thought I played the bass on that section, but the liner notes say Scott played bass on this. Who knows? Check with Scott!

Track 4: That Crawling Sensation
MK: Very well titled. This has a creepy vibe that's super enjoyable to me, but maybe not the best thing for anxious people. Again, a real interesting layering of things which normally wouldn't make harmonic sense together but which combine to create an undeniable vibe. Many great synth textures that Scott created here, and real nice bass from Chris Albers who mixed the album. I've not met Chris yet but I'm happy to have collaborated with him, he did great work on both the playing and the mixing fronts.

Track 5: Bitchy Hawk
MK: Had fun with the piano playing on this song, and Scott did a nice job isolating a particularly Keith Emerson-influenced passage and repurposing it into the intro. I remember Scott and I going back and forth on email a number of times to create the guitar melody that starts at 48 seconds in � "try repeating that note there, take that note out there" � so there was definitely compositional collaboration happening via email, and a lot of parts that might seem like they just sort of "happen" are actually the result of a lot of back-and-forth, to get them just so. I love the little atmospheric guitar interlude around 1:50 � I wonder if that's me on guitar or Chris Albers, who's credited for additional guitars on this track? This album is a really fun guessing game for me � of course I could just ask Scott and get answers to all that stuff, but it's kind of fun not knowing. Bryan Beller told me he really likes the motif at the very end of the song, and yeah I agree with him.

Track 6: Johnson Figleaf
MK:Tony Levin! Nice to hear his fingers doing their thing on this track. There's nothing quite like a REAL bass player, you know? This whole album is hypnotic to me, but this groove especially strikes me that way. I'm happy that Scott kept my little major chord piano trill at 2:04 � I do that every once in a while and in my head it's always a tribute to the last verse of Dear Prudence from the White Album, which is, like, my favorite single verse of a song ever. The weird-ass guitar motif that first appears at 2:49, and then is fleshed out by the guitars when the drums go away for a while a few bars later � that's the kind of thing that Scott is really, really adept at. I'm a bit in awe at how he mines for gold, out of gallons of soil (in this case hours of my improvised stuff), and turns it into these jewels.

Track 7: It Was Delicious
MK: Hey, Scott makes ME sound like a real bass player on this one! Good editing. That synth chord progression at the beginning reminds me of Rundgren. Great use of percussion on this. Cool synth melody starting around 2:10 � sounds like my KORG Karma again. And then it goes to that clean jazzy guitar melody � I wonder if I really played that there, or if Scott grabbed it from somewhere else and stuck it in? Some of my playing on these songs was actually taken from entire OTHER songs, which shows a really impressive overarching editor's sensibility on Scott's part. I sent him SO MUCH stuff and he was able to keep track of all of it and find the right bits for the right sections, even if he had to go hunting through other songs to find them. Someday it would be good for us to be in the studio at the same time and do something, but the geographical limitations are real, especially if none of us are allowed to leave our houses for the next couple of years.

Track 8: Elevation Day
MK: Maybe my favorite groove on the album. I fucking love it. SERIOUS slink. If the credits are to be believed, I played everything on this except for the drums. I find that somewhat astonishing but I'm willing to accept it as truth. The architecture of the interlocking guitars, keys and bass are VERY pleasing to me here, a bit Gentle Giant-ish in spots, but greasier and more decadent. Sick Fractal guitar solo. This song is probably the most Keneally-esque on the album, which is not surprising if I actually play everything on it but drums. But my favorite thing on the song is the drums. The groove is just killing.

Track 9: Magnificent 17
MK: The intro to this song screams '80s to me, in a good way. That's all Scott on keys and synths. I really like his instincts as a synth player. This is also the song which is maybe most suited to re-purposing as TV theme music. C'mon, music supervisors of the world, get on board with this shit. Some very nice slippery lead guitar in the latter half of the song. As soon as this song ends I wish it would start over again. That's a good thing in a song.

Track 10: Prostate 911
MK: All the song titles are Scott's by the way. He's got a knack for it. I'm pretty good at titles, but his really suit the tracks they're on. This song elicited a row of flames in a text from Beller; glad he digs it! This is the moodiest track on the album. Gotta dig a slow 7/4 groove. Scott and I went back and forth quite a bit on email regarding the slurpy, Ernie Isley-inspired lead guitar on this track, getting it just right. I had played a few things that were just a little too wrong-sounding for my own liking, but which Scott thought were cool. He was kind enough to remove them and spare my delicate sensibilities. What he left in is plenty nasty enough as it is. Laying down the acoustic guitar for this track was very meditative for me. It's nice to end the album on such a different texture from the rest of it.
Every time I hear this album it reveals something new to me. Someday I'd like to sit in a room with Scott, drink some beers and ask him who's playing what. Then, we can walk into the studio and start the next album.


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