ladyvagabond: (Default)
( Jul. 16th, 2010 09:49 am)
Ladies, Gents, Satyrs, Fauns, Fen, Friends, I have a new album today.

It's alive!

Digital sales are rolling. Bandcamp is the place to download for now. We'll get iTunes and CDBaby set up soon. Physical orders are available as of a few minutes ago ([info]omnisti is updating the websites as fast as he can - we have new t-shirts too). We'll have tons of copies on hand at my shows for the rest of the summer and beyond. Tonight, we sing and celebrate in Redmond!

As always, thank you all for your support. This could really suck without you.

and by the way, if you want to thank me, thank my wonderful Kevin K' Wiley instead, for getting all the digital stuff and website stuff and sponsor stuff and pre-order stuff together and ready. He is the real rockstar, here.

Salad of Doom
Words by S. J. Tucker & Betsy Tinney, music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals: S. J. Tucker
Cello: Betsy Tinney
Army of Croutons: Michelle Dockrey, Torrey Stenmark, David Tinney, James Tinney, S. J. Tucker, Kevin Wiley
Damsels of Doom: Susan Lanphere, Betsy Tinney, Katie Tinney
Doom descant: Michelle Dockrey

"Salad of Doom" was written in less than twenty minutes, with Betsy and Kate, in the kitchen of their Redmond home, and in the floor of the music room next to the kitchen.  It was Vixy's birthday, a fine summer evening, and the Tinneys were hosting K's fire safety class that evening.  Because Vixy knew about the class and suspected that the house was already likely to be overrun with people, she emailed to ask if it would be all right with everyone for her to come over and play with the kittens (and bring her hubby and whether they should feed themselves, etc).  When I asked Dave, Betsy's amazing husband, he said "oh, sure! I'm gonna feed everybody with a gigantic salad bar," or somesuch other amazing sentence.  I wrote Vixy back and told her that Dave had dinner in hand with an uber-grazing salad bar of doom, and that she and her Fishy should come on over.  She responded with "wow, Dave is awesome.  I wonder if I should sing for
my supper.  Do you know any songs about salads?"
There was a beat, Betsy and I locked eyes, and I immediately started typing lyrics.  A song was born.  We retreated to the music room, giggling and grabbing for instruments.  Twenty minutes later, we emailed Vixy back with an mp3 and said "We do now."  She responded with "falls off chair. Woman! I was kidding!"

About the recording: 
I think the only other time I've had such fun getting a goofy choir together was when we tracked "In the House of Mama Dragon" for Haphazard in 2003-2004.  This time, though, there's video.  I'll be linking to that soon.  I wish we could have had even more damsels of doom and crunching crouton militia members.  Special thanks to Tony for gently wrangling all of these tempting and colorful veggie singers, and also for boosting a couple of moments of comedic timing in the mix.

Interesting facts: 
Betsy's been doing the chilling cello slide after the "iceberg lettuce" line since the day we wrote the song.  I think it's a stroke of genius.  Also, the ladies in the crowd have a tendency to echo her at shows, as if going "DOOM nom nom DOOM nom nom" weren't already fun enough!  I love it.
[profile] omnistiK has masterminded utensil-schtick during live performances of this song.  Observe.


Lyrics:
Beware the Bleu Cheese of Redmond
and the honey-mustard of gloom
Be careful how you stick your fork into
the Notorious Salad of Doom

An army of croutons comes crunching
while sinister spinach doth creep
invading the heart of your luncheon
and stirring your belly from sleep

Tempting and colorful veggies
seek only to draw you in
and learning your fate, you'll find it's too late
as dressing drips from your chin!

iceberg lettuce
will come to chill your soul
don't say we didn't warn you
as you blindly fill up your bowl!
Oh, HEADS OF LETTUCE WILL ROLL!  Ho!

Dress it in flowers and clover,
but it consumes you still!
In leather and lace,
past the bounds of good taste,
this salad is dressed to kill!

The popping of cherry tomatoes
resounds throughout the land!
Innocence lost when the salad was tossed,
but Dave was just feeding the band!!

Iceberg lettuce
will come to chill your soul
don't say we didn't warn you
as you blithely fill up your bowl, oh,
heads of lettuce will roll!

Oh, Health nuts, seek other nutrition!
Vegans, best run from the room!
Be careful how you stick your fork into
the Notorious Salad of Doom

Woe to the grazers of green things,
whose stomachs will growl all too soon!
We'll lose all we love in the tastiness of
The Notorious Salad of Doom


Special thanks to Dave, Betsy, and Kate, and to Vixy and her birthday party, the first audience this song ever had (falling out of their chairs).

Don't Get My Hopes Up
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals, percussion: S. J. Tucker
Tracked & mixed by Kristoph Klover, Flowinglass Music Oakland CA

"Don't Get My Hopes Up" is a pre-love song.  I wrote it on Cinco de Mayo in Seattle in 2009.  It gave me a very jazzy way to deal with stored up
romantic and erotic frustration.

Relationship communication/attraction communication is hard--particularly for what my friend A. calls Lesbian Sheep.  "Female sheep show their interest by standing perfectly still," she tells me.  "Therefore, lesbian sheep never get any play."  The message? Don't act like a lesbian sheep when you know what you want.  Fear is no excuse.

The main idea here:  Don't go there if you don't mean it, because I do.

Lyrics:
Lately I'm a little bit prickly.
Everything hurts when you fall in
love hard enough, rock bottom doesn't feel so bad.
I wouldn't quite call this bitchy--when I am on
my best behavior I'll fool you like a
grown-up little girl who didn't know how good she
had it before.
When desire walks through your door
and all hell breaks loose times four, you'll understand and maybe you
won't pull smooth maneuvers on your suitors anymore.
Oh
(chorus 1)
Don't you go getting my hopes up, girl.
You'll be sorry and so will I.
Last thing either one of us needs is
yet another reason to cry.
I know that I'm your last in line.
I oughtta know better than to call you mine.
Say a flat out "no" to my face, that's fine,
but don't get my hopes up, girl.

Lately I'm a pretty good swimmer--
so far up the creek cuz I fell in
love hard enough hot water doesn't seem so dire, no.
I must've quit paying attention, baby,
I have to tell you the line  is
blurred pretty bad between the frying pan and the
fire.
When love sneaks up on you and fries your
circuits through and through you'll understand and maybe
forgive me my trespasses, for I
know not what I do.
Oh,
(chorus 2)
Don't you go getting my hopes up, boy.
You'll be sorry and so will I.
I'm not one for second chances
once you've made me cry.
My dance card's full, my waiting list
is too backed up for shit like this.
Go ahead and pretend that I don't exist,
but don't get my hopes up, boy.

When desire walks through your door
and all hell breaks loose times four, you'll understand and maybe you
won't demand good manners from your lovers anymore.
Oh,
(chorus 3)
Don't you go getting my hopes up, love.
You'll be sorry 'til the day you die.
I see you wishing on your star
and wishes cannot lie.
I make 'em too, or haven't you heard,
waste a few on you cuz I never did learn.
I know courage is harder to show than concern,
and you can't steal fire and not get burned.
I will try to hold out and wait my turn,
but don't get my hopes up, love.

Here's the only video that I know of, from last July at Wayward in Seattle (CSTS shindig.  Yes, that's my Inara outfit.  Yes, I've been a Browncoat for quite a while now.  Once you start dating Browncoats, it's only a matter of time.  I recommend it, by the way.  Dating Browncoats.  Got other songs about that, but I digress).  The song and the lyrics have evolved just a little bit since then, but it's a good solid cut.  Hope you enjoy it.



About the recording: 
Stoph and I worked on this song right after "Ninjas", so we were in a great mood.  The guitar and vocal you'll hear in this song, like "Ninjas", were nailed in no more than two or three takes.  This song is so jazzy that it's a great deal of fun for me to sing.  A lot of the studio nervousness I typically get just wasn't there.  Part of that is thanks to Stoph, who's great fun to work with.
I'm really proud of how the guitar part turned out, as well as the vocal part.  This one's possibly the sneakiest jazz thing I've written so far.  I want to do more of that.

Interesting facts:
A good percentage of the relationship songs that I write ("Stickit" for example) aren't autobiographical at all.  This one is 100% autobiographical.
I get turned on pretty easily when those I am in love with drop hints. Sometimes those hints don't end up coming with a lot of follow-through.
Hence, I also let myself get frustrated and disappointed pretty easily.  That's my own fault.  Things happen and life gets in the way.  Forgiveness and communication are the key, no matter what's going on.  Also, writing songs is much cheaper than therapy, I suspect.
Those of you who are paying attention will note in the lyrics that there's a chorus addressed to a female lover, a chorus addressed to a male lover, and a chorus with no gender specifics.  Your songwriter is poly and bi, and she's very content to know these things about herself and to have the good fortune to get to act on them with people she trusts. 

Couple suggestions for avoiding sexy frustration:
-It is sometimes easier on the emotions to go the the spa with good friends than it is to go to the spa with significant others.  The no PDA rule can become a problem.  As an alternative, I suggest giving each other bubble baths at home.
-Communication is your friend.  Communication, patience, and forgiveness.

Special thanks to my lovers, my muses, my champion communicators.
September's Rhyme
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Vocals: S. J. Tucker
Tracked & mixed by Tony Fabris, Monkey Brains Studios Seattle

I wrote this song in the lobby of the health clinic in my home town, while waiting for an appointment, almost exactly a year ago.  [info]yuki_onna  is so sweet to me; she always sends me new and secret things to read when she has them ready.  This time, it was the first chapter of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.  In that first chapter, heroine September leaves home and has to figure out how to get into Fairyland using her wits.  Her not entirely helpful friend the Green Wind helps a bit.  With a little frustration and with a lot of holding her mouth right and hopping on one foot, she manages it before the chapter ends.  This song is an attempt to detail, in a wacky way, the process she must go through in order to get into Fairyland.  When Cat heard this for the first time, she wrote me and called it "the devil's carousel music."

About the recording:
[info]tfabris  and I got this one where we wanted it in somewhere between one and two hours, I think, at most.  The recording only takes up three tracks, all of them vocals, and I knew what I wanted to sing going into it: the lead vocal, and two demented little harmony voices behind it.  Every time I hear a new recording for the first time, every time I hear played back what I've only had in my own head up to that moment, it's magic.  Devil's carousel music or not, I love this song.  If nothing else, it got me great feedback from [info]hsifyppah, who said it was very evocative of six-year-olds with disturbing grins (totally my goal), and also from [info]otterkin , who said that my voice "is like purple honey crystal".  ...yum.
Interesting facts:
There are three songs on Mischief that are just under two minutes long:  "The Truth About Ninjas", "Love Lies", and this one.  "September's Rhyme" is the shortest song on the whole album, and it's also the youngest of the three that are under two minutes in length.  Three is a magic number, they say... 
For those of you who are curious, I will be writing more music in honor of Fairyland.  Very, very soon.  I like very much what the first chapter brought out of me, and so I'll be exploring the rest of them and hunting for songs between their phrases.  [info]yuki_onna  leaves me plentiful clues in her stories--I'm three albums in already for that reason.

Lyrics are here, and a little bit more of the background story, along with an mp3, can be found here.  Tonight I'm singing in Ann Arbor again, where this song had its live debut back in October. :D




For other songs I've written that were inspired by [info]yuki_onna 's work, try Quartered, Solace & Sorrow, or For the Girl in the Garden.
Thanks to Cat and Monkey for this one.
Witchka
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, bass, vocals, percussion: S. J. Tucker
Cello: Betsy Tinney
Tracked & mixed by Ginger Doss, Eagle Audio USA

"Witchka" is one song that grew to be something entirely other than what inspired it. It started with the words of a small child and ended with the image of a beautiful goth girl/priestess-in-training who's coming of age, stealing hearts as she goes. I wrote it in December 2006, in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was inspired by a story that [info]yuki_onna told me about [info]justbeast 's young niece Nika, and the first time Nika watched Sleeping Beauty. (They had to pry her away from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which she loved for all of its scary parts, such as when the forest attacks the mildly annoying soprano heroine and the owls go for her face.)

I am told that in the Russian language, "-ka" is one of many diminutive suffixes that you can add to a word to make it mean "cute little _________". My friends who speak Russian tell me that you can just keep adding and adding diminutives to a word, one after another, to show affection. (The first time [info]justbeast called me Soojinka, I melted. Still do.) In this case, [info]justbeast 's niece Nika, at the wise age of four or so, looked at Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty's lovely black-and-purple, dragon-making villain, and called her "Witchka". Nika is my heroine, for life.

About the recording:
I never thought I'd go out of my way to buy a tambourine, but I decided I needed one for "Witchka", for lack of a badass drummer with a full kit. In the end, a rock drummer might have been less trouble to find. There I was at a SamAsh store in Tampa Florida, being looked at by the staff as if I'd grown eye stalks and scales because I asked for a tambourine in the key of G or D. "They don't tune tambourines," I was told. So I thanked them and started walking around on my own. I just played with every tambourine in the place until I found one that had a good sparkly sound and was, in fact, tuned close enough to fit a song in the key of G. It didn't actually take very long.
This is part of why I only go into guitar stores when I absolutely must.

"Witchka" was tracked in Texas, Kansas, and Florida. I tracked guitars and most of the vocals in Austin, I tracked the rest of the vocals and all of the percussion in Melbourne Florida (see above story about the tambourine), and I tracked the bass part, along with the bass part for "Neptune", in the stage right green room attached to the concert pavilion at Camp Gaea just outside of Topeka Kansas, during Heartland Pagan Festival. You literally can record just about anywhere these days, thanks to digital recording gear.

Interesting facts:
There's a goth industrial version of this song simmering in my mind, with live drums, gorgeous crunchy beats and
wah pedal guitars, but that will come when I'm not as impatient to get this song out into the world where you can hear it.
People have been asking me to record "Witchka" for over three years now.
When my cohorts and I perform "Witchka" live, it's anyone's guess how many other songs will make cameo appearances
at one point or another before we end "Witchka".
The list so far:
Personal Jesus
Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)
The Hand That Feeds

Why? Because they all fit the same tempo and feel, with a little bit of creative license on the part of my bandmates and me. It's a fun game. Modern music is an entertaining thing, even in the details. Also, we are incorrigible music geeks and we're proud of it. I want to thank [info]vixyish and [info]stealthcello for being so game to jump into wacky cover territory with me there.

Here's a vid of us performing "Witcka" live (with bonus Alec! Also background noise. Sorry.) at the Mandolin Cafe in Tacoma back in March. (including things from that cameo list up there.) Nah, we're not having fun at all... :D



To abuse the vernacular...Witch, please. Where my Witchkas at?!?

Lyrics posted in this entry.



Special thanks to [info]gingerdoss , [info]stealthcello , [info]yuki_onna , [info]justbeast , [info]celtic_elk* , [info]otterkin , the Cooks, all my Witchkas (you know who you are, my wicked and dangerous dancing goth girls. Please don't ever stop dancing), and of course Nika.
Love Lies
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Vocals, percussion: S. J. Tucker
Tracked & mixed by Tony Fabris, Monkey Brains Studios Seattle

I wrote "Love Lies" at Burning Man in 2008, in the shade at the ARTery headquarters. ([info]omnisti  and I work for the art placement team (the ARTery) at Burning Man.  We help make sure that the big sculptures, burned or otherwise, don't end up set up right on top of each other.  We get to use GPS units and drive golf carts when we go to work.  Burning Man is the only place and time you'll find K and me working a day job and keeping a home, oddly enough.  When I wrote this song, I was between tasks on my work shift.)  Lots of amazing things happen in the desert when Black Rock City shows up like a mirage.  This is the second song I've written out there, and it won't be the last.  This one's actually not as autobiographical as you might expect.  It's not about a wild, one-night romance at the Burn, which is what it sounds like to me (though the potential and the fantasies were certainly there at the time, make no mistake).  I just got to thinking about how so many chance encounters can lead to so many different kinds of interactions (and entanglements) out there, where so many thousands of creative people come together all at once for what really is a very short time. 
Fate knocks, as Beethoven said.  Open the door.
There are so many songs out there about love as a predatory force, something that sneaks up on you, something wild and dangerous.  This one's no exception.  It's got everything-angels, tigers, the desert, danger, and a honey-soaked blues melody line.

About the recording: 
Tony and I discovered that when we covered the head of my bodhran with a sheet and I hit it with the tipper, it sounded an awful lot like a kick drum--exactly what I wanted.  So that's me, sitting in the vocal booth at Monkey Brains with a pretty bedsheet wrapped around my Irish drum, whacking it on the first beat of every measure. :D  That's also me doing the claps and finger snaps--this took several takes, and my hands were pretty warm (and just a little sore) when we were done.  It makes you think about how recording worked a few decades ago, how you had to get it right all in one go, for the most part, or else play your part over and over again.  I feel for the hand clappers and finger-snappers of Motown
and the like, all those who've gone before. 
Often, when I overdub all of the counterparts and harmonies I love to add to my songs in the studio, I'm making up the various parts as I go.  In this case, all the girls were already singing their parts in my mind, just about note-for-note as you hear it.  Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? all over again, to a degree.  They were dying to get out, and I'm very happy with the sassy, bluesy results.  My perverse side loves having a very gospel-sauce song about all sorts of things you don't talk about in church.
Most of the songs on Mischief had to wait their turn to be recorded for a long time.  I think they're better for it, but I'm also relieved to have them out of my head at last.  It gets all crowded up with songs in there.  The minute I finish one, another one steps up.  It's a good problem to have, but sometimes I get a little frantic.  Since I had the arrangement for this one fully formed in my mind from almost the moment I finished writing the lyrics down (I'm not always so fortunate), I feel very good to have it out in the world at last.

Interesting facts: 
It's possible that I'll do a full band recording of this song sometime, but I wanted the a capella version to come first.  Singing with yourself is, for me, a lot less time-consuming than hiring (or becoming) a funk band.  In the meantime, you can hear me do this up right live, song-mama
style, with GBMojo's Ginger Doss and Bekah Kelso, whenever we perform together as The Traveling Fates.

lyrics:
love lies downwind waiting
patiently to be found
all day east wind howling (wailing)
angel don't make a sound
unless
you are the one i have been waiting for

i've been downwind waiting
for you to come around
all night west wind wailing
angel don't let me down
i know
you are the one i have been waiting for

there is no one soul that will swallow me whole
and let me out shining and beautiful, no
(spit me out, turnabout's fair play)
in love there is loss of control
but like the rivers i roll
(just the way it goes/we go)
are you in for the ride?

shifting on the thermal and gliding (riding)
where will you sleep tonight?
love lies, downwind waiting
with the silence of tigers
and a hunger burning bright
with a heart song shining bright

desert star, shine a light
shine a light

(love lies downwind waiting)
(where will you sleep tonight?)

Special thanks to Monkey, now and forever, and to K for getting me out to Burning Man as often as possible.
Neptune
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals, bass, percussion, whalesong: S. J. Tucker
Cello: Betsy Tinney
Tracked & mixed by Ginger Doss, Eagle Audio USA

"Neptune" commemmorates the painful end of a relationship I had with someone very brilliant, who unfortunately felt that the world owed him a living.  I wrote it in Manhattan, in a friend's apartment, while I was on tour with Cat Valente for the first time, just before Halloween in 2006, more than two years after said relationship had left me cold.  I wrote it in the presence of someone else who was just undergoing the painful end of a  relationship, herself, with a husband who lived on the water, of all things.  It came on like a headache, making me very cranky and restless until I realized that all I needed to do was grab my guitar and sit still for a few minutes.  I did so, and out flowed a song.

Cat wrote this vignette for "Neptune" in the liner notes:

This is what a song does: it ties two tales together. So that one woman, with such a kind face, can sit on a couch in New York and pick out a melody the color of deep blue ink on her guitar, singing shards of a song like a knife, like a burial, and another woman, broken all too recently, can hear it, and find herself crying because it is not only the kind woman’s story but her own. She can see herself in it, her mistakes and her rescue, and the inky tendrils of the song stitch her heart back together, even as they are being written by the gentle woman beside her, even as the song is being made, it heals her. Note by note, stitch by stitch. And it goes out into the world from that couch in New York, and it touches other tales, and other hearts, and we all stand on either side of a song the color of water, and sing along with it.

This is what a song can do. This is what magic is.

Years ago I came to you,
in love and doomed by what I knew,
and though I miss the mystery now
of life beneath the waves,

Thin air's as sweet as water
when your body begs to breathe,
and so I leave when I must leave,
don't weep for love I couldn't save


Love changes us all, makes us broken, makes us brave, makes us deny ourselves and our very breath, makes us refuse to listen when our hearts tell us that the time has come to move on, to break the surface.  "Neptune" is the story of what can happen after you've drowned yourself willingly in someone else's hopes and dreams, and you find that saltwater and shadows no longer sustain you.  "Neptune" is the story of what can happen when you've lived in sin with a god for long enough that the respective piles of dirty laundry and broken promises have started to really get on your nerves.

Interesting facts: 
Originally the first verse went like this:
Moons ago I came down to you
down beneath your ripples
wrapped in seaweed splendor
where the coral yields to gloom

Years I floated near you
swimming in your subterrain
rocking in the opium embrace
of Triton's tomb


I might start singing it again this way when I perform it live; we'll see.
The rest of the song's features--time signature changes, guitar parts, lyrics--are pretty much as they were when I finished writing the song that day in New York.

I started learning two new percussion instruments just for this song: Tar (frame drum) and Udu (clay pot drum--the one that goes bwwoOOp).  The list of percussion we used on "Neptune" is the longest, coolest list of different ethnic drums I've ever played: djembe, tar, udu, and doumbek. 

About the recording: 
Ginger, Betsy and I started tracking "Neptune" at Ginger's last home in Austin, and Ginger and I completed tracking at the home of friends in Melbourne, Florida.  We tracked cello and the main guitar part in Austin, and we tracked all the rest in Florida--twenty minutes from the nearest beach.  I didn't realize until we were nearly done with our work that there was a mermaid painting on the wall in the room where we were recording.  Lots of other interesting ocean things happened that week, including a wonderful recording trick that we discovered by accident:  the sound of the ocean that you hear on "Neptune" is not the ocean at all.  That's what it sounded like when I ran my hands gently across the goatskin head of Ginger's wonderful djembe drum, with the reverb cranked all the way up in Ginger's recording program.  We could hardly believe our ears when we played it back.  "So much for hunting down an ocean sound effect!" we decided,
our eyes wide.  Same for the whalesong noise in the intro: that's me, sucking air backwards into my throat with my lips closed, while we were taping the ocean sound from the djembe with the reverb cranked up.  Happy accidents in the studio are one of my favorite kinds of magic.

This version of "Neptune" is one of the finest things I've ever recorded.  Unlike most of the tracks I've released that I'm very happy with, we recorded "Neptune" without a click track.  Normally, when I get ready to record a song, the engineer and I will set up a click track for me to play against, so that I can be absolutely sure that I'm keeping time and tempo the way that I want to, without drifting.  In the case of "Neptune", Ginger and I decided to record without use of a click track, due to the fact that the song changes tempo several times.  All of the drums and guitars and vocals that you hear, I played without the guidance of a steady beat.  The same went for Betsy and her cello part.  We just had to feel it, and somehow, we did.  Over and over, in my case, but I love the result.  It moves the way the ocean moves, and it all moves together.

Special thanks go to Chris in Tampa for the last-minute Mid-east Drums hookup and to the Cooks for the loan of their sweet ceramic doumbek (and of course their house).

The Truth About Ninjas
Words & Music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals: S. J. Tucker
Tracked & mixed by Kristoph Klover, Flowinglass Music Oakland CA

Once upon a time in early 2008, I was asked by good friends and fans to perform at a house party in Dayton, Ohio.  Said friends let it slip that they'd attempted to sell the party honoree on me by telling him about my pirate songs, to which he said "well, does she have a ninja song?  What if I want a ninja song?"  Thus, the ninjas vs. pirates debate came to my door to throw down the gauntlet, for the very first time.

I did not think quickly enough at the time to come back with "but honey, all of my songs have ninjas in them.  Couldn't you tell?"

I toyed with the idea of writing a ninja song before I got to Dayton. It happened while we'd stopped to rest at Sterling's house on the way to Ohio.  The words just started tumbling out.  I wrote them down as fast as I could while sitting in Sterling's living room, mystifying her cats in my concentration.  The sneaky plucked guitar line tiptoed right behind, on cat feet.  I remember giggling evilly at the time.  I also remember that my fit of songwriting kept us from getting back on the road at our appointed hour, not for the first time and likely not for the last time.

Since its debut at that Dayton house party, "The Truth About Ninjas" has been busting guts at every performance.  It's a particular favorite at cons, but I get requests for it just about everywhere I go.

About the recording: 
This was the first track that Kristoph and I worked on together.  I'd hoped to break the ice with it, to show 'Stoph my chops and a bit of my sense of humor at the same time.  It worked.  We stopped being both overly polite and nervous.  Kristoph has a great laugh and an even greater ability to stifle said laugh while tracking is going on. :D

Interesting facts: 
I toyed with the idea of putting a live version of "Ninjas" on the album instead of a studio version, just because the laughter is so wonderfully
contagious when I play the song at shows.  I don't know which I love more: playing it for a crowd who've never heard it before, or playing it for a crowd who've heard it many times.  I also toyed with the idea of letting it be a hidden track on the album, or even waiting to release it as a hidden track on the album of pirate songs I'm working on next.
I have the advantage of being relatively well known for singing good songs about pirates. I'm not sure whether "Ninjas" would be quite as big of a crowd favorite without my pirate songs already being on my audiences' radar.  Therefore, I feel that in this case, both sides are winners in the ninjas vs. pirates debate.

The video I'm including here is from this past weekend--this was definitely the most fun I've had yet, performing this song and the back story that goes with it.  It takes a great deal to make me break character and crack up like this during a show.  I've kept a straight face through spontaneous alligator-costumed tango, unplanned sword fights, and even my boyfriend lighting his face on fire (partly on purpose, but without warning me first).  Ninja  burlesque, it seems, is my breaking point--at least it was this time.  Sterling got me good.



Obviously, there are some lyrics lost here, as I'm cackling.
I'll post those below so that you have some idea what's missing.

Special thanks to Stoph, and to the Dayton crew, who I hold entirely responsible.
Thanks also to Marcia for the video

THE TRUTH ABOUT NINJAS
copyright S. J. Tucker 2008

Paragon of dignity
untouchable and lethal
but there's more to life than shuriken.

sudden death comes easy
when you practice every day
you'll think you're ten feet tall and bulletproof
until you pass my way
and you will never see it coming
no one's sad to see you go
within my eyes you'll glimpse a wisdom
you were not prepared to know
In fearing what you cannot see
you fall beneath my hand
this is a ninja thing you wouldn't understand

you will never know I'm here
until it's far too late
it is a ninja's way to pass unseen
and not to storm the gate
Moving quieter than kitten
circumnavigating law
tiptoeing merciless as nightfall
until I pounce and disappear again
you'll never hear a thing
the soul has always been corrupted
but the heart and hands are clean
Sworn enemies fall lifeless
though they never see my face
the game is glory but I take my joy
in leaving not a trace
My actions quick as lightning
unintended to hurt you I'm only
doing what a ninja's gotta do

Following the way
creeping night and day
I won't say life is hard
but I must restrain my urges to run naked through my yard

No ninja goes out streaking
it just simply isn't done
my career would shrivel up and die
but damn would it be fun!
To see the neighbors eyes
as big as saucers peeking from their doors
I'd pirouette beneath the moonlight
days of skulking, hiding, sneaking,
and assassinating enemies no more!!

Just one streak of brightness
in a world of black and blue
I'd just be doing what a ninja's gotta do
wouldn't you?
go skinny-dipping like a ninja's gotta do!
Were-owl
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals, percussion: S. J. Tucker
Cello: Betsy Tinney
Guest backing vocal: Michelle Dockrey
Tracked & mixed by Tony Fabris, Monkey Brains Studios Seattle

"Were-owl" is a direct result of collaboration with someone I've never met in
person.  I found myself thrown together with artist [info]emilycarding last spring in
the [info]2xcreative  project.  The idea of the project, hatched by
friend and photographer [info]kylecassidy and others, was to pair creative
people all across the world and give them a month or so to collaborate on something,
anything new.  All we had to do was say "yes" to the following question:  if you
had the chance to make a damn fine piece of art with another human being, would
you take it?

Emily and I talked over email.  We laid out our websites for each other--I sent
her a link to my bandcamp site, where she could listen to all of my recorded
work, and she sent me a link to her online gallery, where I could view all of
her drawings, paintings, and digital art pieces.  We agreed to trade a song about
an art piece for an art piece about a song, and we turned each other loose.
I wandered through Emily's online gallery, clicking on anything that caught my
eye.  The piece that stopped me in my tracks was a photoshop treatment titled
"Were-Owl"--a depiction of an owl with a very human face turning a worried glance
upon a full-moon sky.  I couldn't look away from his expression.  I knew
at that moment that I'd be writing a song about him very soon.

Meanwhile, Emily fell in love with my Wendy songs and decided to include me in
her Neverland Tarot deck (still in progress, right Em?), depicted as Red-handed
Jill/Green-eyed Sue, on the Queen of Wands card.

It's one thing to know that you've inspired somebody.  It's another for it to
be mutual and simultaneous.  Emily's piece brought out of me a tribute to the
wild creature in each of us, to the uncertainty and danger of love, and to the
wonder of loving someone who's a bit outside your ken. 
(I do admit a tiny homage to a certain goblin king, here, but who wouldn't?)

About the recording:
"Were-owl" originally appeared as an internet single, July 2009. 
You can meet that incarnation of him, listen, and read the lyrics here.
He's been remixed and polished up for his appearance on Mischief, thanks to
[info]tfabris , who toiled away for days upon days to satisfy my every
artistic and technical whim.
"Were-owl" is just one of the many songs on Mischief for which Betsy wrote a
gorgeous cello part.  On this song and on all of the others, she recorded
with her stunning black carbon fibre five-string, Raven, beloved of
Betsyfans everywhere.
[info]vixyish  has a beautiful cameo appearance on the last chorus of this song. 
Those of you who know and love her voice should be able to find her
immediately.

Interesting facts:  I composed "Were-owl" in St. Louis, in my friend Stephen's
basement, where Ginger and I were mixing the Tricky Pixie album together.  I
wrote it in the key of B-flat minor, which is the same key it's recorded in.
In order for the cello part to be playable in that key, [info]stealthcello  had to tune
her entire cello down a half-step.  This is why, when we perform "Were-owl"
live, we play it in B minor-so that Betsy doesn't have to re-tune mid-show.
  

Special thanks to Em, Kyle, Monkey, Vixy, and Betsy.
Cheshire Kitten (We're All Mad Here)
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals: S. J. Tucker
Tracked & mixed by Ginger Doss, Eagle Audio USA

I started writing "Cheshire Kitten" in the winter of 2008, at a restaurant north
of Portland, Oregon, between a bookstore concert in Portland and an appearance
at Conflikt 1 in Seattle.  I finished the song that July, sitting outside the Camellia
Lounge in Portland, Oregon, before a Tricky Pixie concert.  The concept arrived
as a "what if", and I don't remember what, if anything, prompted it.  The same
thing happened with the Wendy songs, when I wrote them--a lightning-bolt idea
snuck into my head unannounced, and I asked "what if?"  What if the Cheshire Cat
isn't always so sure of himself?  What if there's more than oneCheshire Cat? 
How do subsequent generations of Cheshire Kittens feel about living up to their elders'
reputation of madness and mischief?  And suddenly, a Cheshire Kitten walked into
my mind and told me all about how she felt.

Maybe anyplace outside of Wonderland
is not for me, my friend.


In July, her story filled itself out, all at once, pulled together by that
delicious line in the chorus:
If I leave my grin behind, remind me
that we're all mad here
and it's okay!

All of us dreamers must find a balance between Wonderland and the real world,
and it isn't always easy.  Some of us are broken by it.  Some of us are made
stronger.  You can't spend all your time in one place or the other.  You have
to visit both, and you have to trust yourself to find your way back.

About the recording: for the recorded version, I wanted to capture a bit of frenetic
silliness, something like what the voices in your head might sound like when they're
all trying to be helpful at once--hence the devolution into kitten-talk and scat
singing in the last minute or so of the song.  I recorded those vocals in our friend
Karla's basement laundry room (just about anything can become a vocal booth
on short notice when you're on the road.  Ginger and I are pretty adaptable), in
Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Interesting fact:  the opening guitar lick of "Cheshire Kitten" is a direct nod
to and a near carbon copy of the ending melody of Michelle Dockrey's "The Girl
That's Never Been", a song inspired by a story about grown-up Alice meeting the
Cheshire Cat for a drink.  Michelle (aka Vixy) and I often put those two songs
back-to-back in our setlists at shared shows, completely on purpose.  Vixy was
one of the first people to hear "Cheshire Kitten", after I finished writing it,
and we sing it together nearly every chance we get.  Spookier and spookier: I
started writing it a few hours before she and I met, and I finished it exactly
one week after we had our first shared concert.  ooOOOOoooOOOOOOOOoooo

Special thanks to Karla and family for use of their space, Gingy, and my Kitten
Sundae tribe.
.