HIGH FLOOR • MOUNTAIN VIEW
VOLUME 1 of The Great Release Project
In 2008, I was offered two tours. One was twice as lucrative as the other, but would have kept me away from my family and music for a long time. I took the less-paying one which turned out to be a three-year residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
During the first year in Vegas, I recorded and mixed my album during downtime under my moniker Uh, titled Room Keys. It contained some covers and original tracks. It was an album that also had live guitar, bass, percussion and featured my brother Damien on E-Drums and guitar, as well as James Gadson on the song, Walking Down Newland.
It was during the next year our residency changed from The Meridien to The Platinum Hotel across the street, that I started working on High Floor • Mountain View. Again, with each run, I would take all of my guitars, bass, percussion, synths and recording equipment and create during my time off.
The album begins with Nothing To Swear To (Athiest Prayer). It was inspired by hearing a conversation between the Music Director and the Bass Player about something that had happened at prayer circle one night before a show. I was also listening to some older house that had gospel references in it at the time, some of it with “heavenly father” as opening lyrics. Normally I don’t do prayer circles at the shows, but if I were ever asked, what would I say? this song is what I would have said, and probably would have never been asked to return.
Better Off Alone, Every Mile, She Loves You and Someone Else were written years before they were recorded and revisited during my Platinum stays. Their beginnings in various DAWs led to their completion with added vocoder, saxophone, guitar, bass and percussion instruments. Better Off Alone was created upon the decision to end a long-term relationship and Every Mile was written on a flight from Japan to Los Angeles, both born in the DAW Reason.
New Year’s Day, written on 1/1/2010. At home in Culver City, I walked into my studio that morning and saw the pink sky outside of my window. A chord progression came to me and I put it down quickly. An hour later, the basic rhythm track was finished, using electric bass, an electric guitar and a Rhodes Mark I in the process. Its lyrics matched my mood that morning, and gave me my greatest New Year’s resolution ever.
Someone Else was written at HuGE Studios in New York, owned by my friend Hewan Essue, in the 90’s. The original was recorded at HuGE, and featured a comical contrast between the laid-back Southern Californian vocal style and what at the time was considered a hard, hip-hop rhythm, featuring The Honeydrippers drum samples. The ending tag line, “When you want somebody, ain’t nobody” was an afterthought I improvised as the music was fading on the demo. When I decided to re-record it in this millennium, I used it as a B-Section and changed it to a house track, using a lot of Roland sounds and loops.
Ultimate Mistress was written in New York in 2001, at the end of my first marriage. It originally was intended to be a house track with an arrangement similar to “As” with Mary J Blige and George Michael. Trying an acoustic version, a la Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles, this version was created, along with the added electronic and other acoustic elements. The intro sound was created with guitar, using Roger Linn’s AdrenaLinn plug-in version 1. When I went to revisit the song years later, the plug-in had been discontinued and I was unable to re-create the sound. I had to find an earlier demo recording of the intro and insert it into the top of the song.
Waited Forever was also written in the 90’s, during a time when Babyface dominated the charts. The song was revisited in Las Vegas, with added acoustic instruments.
Where Is J began as it states in the lyrics – as a groove written while being stood up by a successful music executive in New York one Sunday afternoon. The beautiful, lush background vocals are by Nichelle Tillman, who I was working with at the time.
Without You (from Dream) was an instrumental that came to me as I was waking up one morning. Sometimes I hear everything at once, and this was once of those instances. The B section came from another song I had written years earlier and it flowed nicely into this section.
Without You was written as a 32-bar loop, upon learning that an ex-girlfriend had gotten married. The bittersweet mood led to a defensive lyric in the chorus, supported mostly by vocal harmonies. When it came time to write the verse, I wasn’t sure what to do. I hit record and waited to see what would happen. I began to sing, “It’s been a while since we were together,” which was from a song I wrote in 1986 called Heart Of Glass. So both versions of Without You on this album contain elements of previously written songs. The end of the latter version sounds stark and lonely, to match the real, underlying feel at the time, and to the chorus.
You’re My Latest, Greatest Inspiration is a song originally recorded by Teddy Pendergrass, written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. I heard it a few times when I was younger and thought it was so beautiful, that it brought me to tears. One morning, on a day off in Vegas after a long night at McMullins with a road friend, I began to sing this song to myself while hungover. “Oh, I could never pull that song off,” was my first thought. My next thought was, “says who?” A few hours later, I was finishing up the background vocals, doing massive harmony loops of the “higher” line.
Make Me Say It Again, Girl (Part 1 & 2) is a cover of the Isley Bros. classic. I don’t quite remember how it was started, but what I do remember was during some downtime on the Maxwell tour in 2001, I imported the original stereo track into Digital Performer and locked it to a tempo grid, something I had to do years later while working from the Michael Jackson original multitracks for both of of his posthumous Cirque du Soleil Immortal and ONE shows. Sometime when I was in Vegas in 2010 or 2011, I found the forgotten Isley Bros. project and decided to re-create the arrangements, as well as sing the vocals. I had forgotten about it until I started to assemble tracks for this album last year and came upon it. I added more Rhodes parts and used Drum Drops for the drum tracks. I also had to mute every other high hat in order to get the Part 1 drums to get closer to the original, because the recorded drums had a 16th note part that gets unmuted in Part 2.
Keep Off The Beach could easily become the national anthem of the MGTOW movement. It’s an ode to my inability to surf and deal with/date the local women of Orange County when I was younger. It was written using a Korg iElectribe and an original Roland TR-808. The crunchy guitars and vocals were recorded raw and quick, in contrast to the rest of the tracks on this album. I don’t necessarily agree anymore with the lyrical philosophy of this song, but it was fun to record and puts a time stamp on that era in my life.
She Loves You was written in the house that once belonged to my grandparents in Winooski, Vermont, during a family visit. This version is an early Chicago style House mix, as a musical tribute to Frankie Knuckles.
So that’s High Floor Mountain View. This album sat on my hard drives for eight years. I figured it wasn’t doing anyone any good there and it was time to release it, along with others that have been sitting near it. It represents my joy and passion in creating music, moving away from strictly electronics and incorporating live guitar, bass and percussion as a part of the elements. It was a way for me to develop my craft as a musician, a producer and an engineer, having fun the whole time in its discovery and enjoy the adventure of its becoming.
I would like to thank the Erwin, Mercure, Solomon, Masson and Hoang families, James Gadson, Wah Wah Watson (RIP Wahweezie), Nichelle Tillman, the Platinum Hotel staff, my Cher road family and my wonderful sons James and Alexander.