This is one of my favorites from the Buzzsaw catalog, and one of the first ones we finished. (If I remember correctly, we recorded this song second but finished the mixdown first.) It was in this song, too, that we were introduced to an accidental character that would later come to take on a life of his own throughout this album, a character named Clusterfuck Jones.
Initially, the song was not a character sketch. As I remember it, the title of the song was an impulsive decision. I remember Chas saying, “It doesn’t really matter what we call the song . . . we could call it ‘Clusterfuck Jones’ for all I care.”
The chorus came about the same way. At one point, while Chas was recording lyrics, I was standing outside smoking a cigarette. Chas leaned out the window and said, “Hey, I need something that goes, “Ba ba, baba ba ba ba ba.” Without thinking, I said, “I am so lonely I could just die.”
I’ve always been fascinated with the way that accidents during the creative process later take on some sort of meaning. As I mentioned above, we began this song without any intention or awareness of Clusterfuck Jones as a character, but looking back on the lyrics, it’s almost as if his presence were there all along. The line, “I am so lonely I could just die,” indicates that Jones is a tragic figure of sorts. Despite his loneliness, though, Jones also seems optimistic (“You’ll never see any better/ I’ve got best seller flavor”), if a little paranoid (“A mental narrator finds another way to say/ that we’ve been making our rounds under his crowded gaze”). The paranoia, I think, comes out a little more in other songs, especially “Elvis Was a Freemason,” which I consider an anthem for paranoia.
It was on this song too that contained a blueprint for what would later become the creative process for writing songs. On this song, like many others, the song seemed to surprise at every turn. The bass line, for example, is continuously looped throughout the song. The guitar and vocal melody, though, changes quite a bit. In all respects, the bass line shouldn’t work, and yet it seems to fit just fine. For me, a lesson learned here was to simply forge ahead blindly and have a certain amount of faith that the song will somehow pull itself together.
Finally, I just want to say about this song that I particularly like the country twang mixed with the digital 8-bit Nintendo sounds. It made for a striking contrast.
I think Jake and I are in agreement that this is probably one of the overall best sounding tunes we worked on. One could argue that we should have stopped here, and that every song after that was a misguided attempt to try and recapture the genie, so to speak. Whoever that guy is who’s arguing that, he’s a stupid asshole who should shut the hell up. The song was definitely the “validation moment” of the project, the justification that we weren’t just wasting our time drinking PBR (although, are you ever really “wasting” your time if you’re drinking PBR?).
Jake is right that this is the first song we completed with a final mix, but this was actually the third we recorded. We’ve maintained this model the whole time where we’ve alternated between each other’s places. “Messiah” was the inaugural track at my place, then “Elvis” at his place, and then “Clusterfuck” back at my place. Who can blame the guy for getting such a tiny factoid incorrect though, especially considering that we’re talking about beer-addled sessions that took place over three years ago?
One thing I especially like about this tune are the headstock bends I do on the guitar. I’ve never really done them before, though I’ve always liked that eerie out-of-tune-ness they can bring about. If I remember correctly, these were Jake’s idea, and he commanded me to do them, and I resisted pretty strongly at first. I have no idea why I would have resisted this, but I think I had the idea that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. This, of course, was a big lesson in what became the Buzzsaw process: do not say no to any suggestion. Try it, record it, and whoever’s mixing the song later will decide if it gets to stay.
Our lyrical approach varies dramatically from song to song, especially since sometimes the lyrical content is a key component of that night’s rules. However, we have used one approach more often than any others, and once again this song set the template. Quite often when one of us in the “studio” recording, the other is off smoking or watching TV. This night I also decided to start jotting things down for lyrics, because we really wanted to see if we could complete the entire song this night, as we hadn’t had the chance to get to vocals in our two previous songs.
Whatever I wrote was complete nonsense, but I instructed Jake to flip the page in the notebook and do the exact same thing while I was recording. We had no idea how this was going to end up, but we figured we could use the material in some way or another, so it was best to just turn our filters off and write down a whole bunch of crap.
Then, once we’d finished all the music, we brought out the notebook and started circling the things we liked and crossing out the things we didn’t. Then we basically started reordering them to see if we could assemble some verses. In the process, we were allowed to alter lines as we saw fit—even though we still had no idea how they would be sung.
Jake basically nominated me to sing, either because it was my turn to do something or because he’s generally a little more hesitant to sing than I am. At this point it was definitely past two in the morning, but probably even later. I just kind of looked at the lyric sheet and started rambling along to the tune, which was made a little easier since it was just so damn bouncy. As soon as I could sing a couple lines without fucking anything up, I hit record. I’m especially glad I had the idea to double-track everything with a nice megaphone-in-a-tin-can distortion on there. I think that’s really what made everything blend in so well together. Good times.
Up Next: “Elvis Was a Freemason“