Wednesday, July 25, 2012

John Wetton on Asia XXX - Track by Track

I never do this, but today I am simply reprinting an interesting piece that I just saw on John Wetton's website. I enjoyed the new Asia album a good deal, and I always find Wetton's words to be entertaining, educational, and informative. If you like Asia, you'll find this well worth your time. Tomorrow it shall be me with pen in hand again (so to speak). John, I hope you don't mind.
 

John Wetton, "I will preface this whole essay by stating that I don't write with a view to being criticized. If I did that, I wouldn't be able to write at all. I just let the pen flow (figuratively, because I write on the computer), but in other words, as soon as I have my title, direction,---when I know roughly what point I'm going to make, I just let the Muse do it for me. People may say that it sounds like I'm not in control, and maybe I'm not, but this works for me. I will then review and revise, change this, change that, until --to my mind-it makes sense, and has some kind of form. I consider form to be all-important, in music as well as lyric. I tip my hat to some of my greatest influences--Richard Palmer-James (listen to Supertramp's biggest hits, and you will hear RP-J's influence all over them like a cheap suit), Joni Mitchell (my first-person confessional comes directly from her----did I say that I love Joni Mitchell? There, I've said it now), Marvin Gaye (don't be afraid to describe exactly what's pissing you off, but be urbane when you say it). So, the thought stream dictates the Asia lyric. Now I don't know why, but lately all the lyrics have a positive bent. I'm not using the word 'message', because that would be too self-important, but the song, however dark, will not leave you in that hopeless place alone. As I said, I don't know why, but that's the way it goes. You may notice references to Asia's past in some of the lyrics---there are some that are very personal to the band, and others that may bring a smile to your face, if you know the history of the band.

"Tomorrow The World:
 
All of the introductory passage is Geoff's, the cello is my idea---we were hoping that Hugh McDowell would be available to play the part, but by the time of recording, he was not well enough---we look forward very much to working with him again when he's recovered. I played the original cello melodic idea into the track, and GD found the sound. Musically, it's a  Wetton/Downes collaboration ---all of the ideas came from our last writing session, along with Face On The Bridge.Great drums from CP on this track. The choruses are an adult talking to a child, and the verses, where the lyric gets tougher,are all about fate, destiny. What I am saying, however, is that whatever cards life has dealt you, what you do with them is up to you. It is not compulsory to accept without question.

"Bury Me In Willow:
 
My chorus, which I really did not know what to do with. It was written on 12-string guitar over the last year.  Got the lyric idea finally after GD and I had been putting down ideas at Liscombe, and I was driving home from the studio (a 2.5 hr drive, and one where I get a lot of ideas, as I'm very focussed, and I have rough mixes to listen to . The first idea was to have my casket made of willow, rather than oak, and then the symbolism hit me, that maybe the less rigid, less dogmatic, more tolerant, pliable attitude would have been a better way to be in life. But if I couldn't be that way while alive, I'll make sure that in death, I forego all the status symbols , pomp and rigmarole of a formal funeral for a pauper's burial.So the lyric then wrote itself around the chorus. Geoff's music on the verse, solos and outro. My little madcap bridge superbly orchestrated by GD and a brilliant E-Bow solo from Steve.

No Religion:
 
Originally a backing track created in the studio from ideas from Steve and Geoff, I tinkered with the end line of the verse leading into the chorus, then looked for ideas for the lyric. I started writing about unemployment---a lot of the people I know locally have had redundancies recently---and somehow incorporated angst and depression into the thinking. The verse struck me as quite dirty, the bridge more melodic and pretty ( 'I daisy-chain my life away'), and the choruses carry the main statement that our unemployed hero is carrying---'got no religion, just living hell, if I had money, I'd drop it all in a wishing-well', meaning even if he had some money, it wouldn't be enough, so he may as well gamble it to get more.The song starts in a pub, ---then our guy's going to find a sordid place to daisy-chain his life away. He's waiting for the Man, but the Man, instead of giving him the goods he ordered, starts telling him how to change his life. In retrospect, I wanted the angelic Miss Ludo to be the one to impart the life-changing Epiphany--Ludovika is in real-life a Barista at my local coffee-shop. People always ask me if my lyrics are autobiographical. 'Always', I reply, so your question is rhetorical. I love the energy of this track, it's infectious, and Tufty did a great mix.

"Faithful:
 
Geoff and I wrote the chorus to this together, I remember the afternoon at my house,and we were getting terribly excited about this tune. It has a classic chord sequence ---C/ Am/ Dm/ G/ C, but the melody can be half-time over a rocky back track. At a later date, I got a message from GD---'why not try the title Faithful?' Now, this is fatal (fatal, not faithful), because try as I may, I could not get that title out of my head. So, despite the possibility of derision and raised eyebrows from ex-wives, I began to swim with the tide, and before long, the lyric had written itself. It verges on schmaltz (the whole song does, despite the tough backing track), but then so does everything by Paul McCartney, The Eagles and Bon Jovi, so.....I rest my case. It all depends how well you do it, of course. I think we did well. The harmonies are restrained (I could have gone totally overboard on the three-part in the chorus), and it charges like a steam train, once the stride is hit.The drumming is fantastic, and the solo is the tune ( and I love that).

"I Know How You Feel:
 
Driving through the Hindhead tunnel, en route to my dentist for an implant one dark, Winter evening in the wilds of Surrey, I flicked between two rough mixes on a studio CD. The end of 'Faithful', and the opening to 'I Know How You Feel". I got chills, it was so atmospheric---whatever the sequence on the final pressing, these two songs had to be adjacent. I mentioned it to Mike (Paxo), who tried it for himself, and agreed that it was a winner. Out of all the songs on XXX, this is my favourite. The Midinight Mix adds another dimension to the song, but either version gets my vote as the song of the album.The comparisons to other bands because of the eights in the right hand of the keyboard are churlish---for the rock version, it had to be this way, and I love it. The drum part locks perfectly with the bass licks, and the the vocal middle 8 (bridge) is up there with our best. The lyric is me talking to someone else who has the same condition that I do, and reassuring them that all will be ok.

"Face On The Bridge
 
This is , I think, the last song that Geoff and I wrote for the album, and it's odd that it was chosen as the first single. The same happened with Heat of the Moment, Don't Cry, and Go. It's the story of seeing a face on the King Charles Bridge in Prague, the Karluv Most, Praha 1. It's quite an amazing place---it's covered with artists (some very good ones, too) painting and sketching everything from landscapes to caricatures, and the bridge itself has statues along the balustrade---at night it all lights up and is quite captivating---not as captivating as my interpreter, however, without whom this song would not have a subject. It was a title I wrote in my diary, and when the first chords of the chorus appeared, I knew it was the right place. Steve's guitar parts embellish the track superbly,the drums have been described as 'very Coldplay' or 'very U2'. Rubbish! they're very good, is what they are--- they're also very modern, well done Carl for dragging us into the 21st century! The verse is Geoff's, and the chorus is mine, if you are keeping a notebook.That's my mobile phone ringing over the intro, by the way. 

"Al Gatto Nero:
 
Al Gatto Nero is a little Italian restaurant close to where I live. It has a great sign over the door, a real Art Nouveau cat, looking suitably aloof and nobile----- snooty. I just loved the idea of a guy getting so hacked off at home, that he seeks some enjoyment and company at the local. Like Joni Mitchell's Mermaid Cafe, it's the place to go to to let the hair down, and forget about the problems, have some fun tonight.All the music is Geoff Downes, I provide the words on this tune. It's been played a couple of times on Radio 2 in the UK, on Ken Bruce's show---and it sounds great on radio. On my trip to Japan in January, for my solo dates, the lovely Valentina (management) sat next to me for 15 hours, and kindly provided the Italian translations and pronunciations, which I probably managed to massacre,and thoroughly dodgy-up. Thankyou, Val.

"Judas:
 
Steve Howe sent a CD to me, GD and Mike Paxman  with the bones of the song, and we all agreed we needed to put this on the record, so the track was created, and I started to think about lyrics. The song is so pop/rock that any standard rock lyric idea tends to sound trite . I took a leaf from the great British pop bands of the 70s/80s---like 10cc and XTC---and wrote something so scathing and vitriolic---the lyric has the words brutal, traitor, murderous and speaks of ' putting the knife in', but is sung in a straightforward ,po-faced, almost mellifluous manner  . The word Judas is mentioned in the lyric, so Paxo suggested it, half-jokingly, as a title. I leapt at that, and added sugar-sweet honeyed harmonies singing the deathly chorus. I've been asked who bears the brunt of this vitriol,who is the subject of this song ? Is it Mr.Lane? The Ex? That bloke from EMI? No, it's not---sometimes my characters are an amalgamation of several different heroes or villains----- but I'm not going to tell you who it is...................YET.

"Ghost Of A Chance:
 
A natural closer, and we knew that as soon as we had the chords that this was a possibility. Lyrically, it sums up the diverse emotional mount and abyss of the whole album. It's triumph in adversity, it's telling me if I want a different world, I must go out and change it,but the change starts with me, and action must accompany a decision, otherwise that decision is a whim. Absolutely stunning steel guitar solo from Mr. Howe,  gargantuan drums from CP,Taurus Moog pedals make their presence felt, and a great way to end the record on a powerful note of personal optimism in a blaze of Asia musical pyrotechnic." 
 
http://www.johnwetton.co.uk/

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