Listen to “Axiomatic” by Mark Lint & the Simulacra (as well as the version by New People).
For our Gödel episode, I thought it fitting to remix one of the last-to-be-completed tracks for the Mark Lint & the Simulacra album (mostly recorded in 2000 with folks in Austin, but still not done now due to my having moved on to other projects): “Axiomatic,” even though this breaks a principle I’ve stuck to up to now that I shouldn’t post the same song on two different episodes.
It’s kind of an existential motivational song, like “Eye of the Tiger” as written by Schopenhauer: “If misery is axiomatic for the likes of you and me, decide it’s cool, and call it fuel, and employ it sparingly [use it fruitfully, etc.].” I’m not using the term “axiomatic” to mean “obvious” per the graphic here, but as inspired by the way it’s used in philosophy (especially Buddhism): suffering may be more or less logically entailed by human nature.
The second chorus and bridge sound vaguely like something out of Nausea (“If misery stares like a tree… I know that something’s happened to me, but I’m missing what I’ve become”) with the kicker (notably missing from Nausea) at the end of the bridge (“But I know that if you hold on to me, then I’ll have some place to fall from, and to come back to”), that this is actually a love song (love being one of the meaning-generating ways out of existential despair). Despite this existentialist/Buddhist theme, the song has been posted on two mathematics/logic-related episodes, because, hey, how many songs actually use a term from mathematical logic term in the title?
No song inspired by mathematical logic would be complete without a smutty third verse (you’ll have to listen to the song for that); I don’t think the connection between nihilism and sex (as exemplified in exhortations like “let’s fuck this shit up!”) is accidental. I’m not sure one can use “ménage” as a verb, but just to clarify, the 3-way is between you (well, not you), me, and time. It all makes perfect sense!
And now my historical/technical notes on the recordings which will likely only be of interest to other musicians:
The version posted way back in 2009 on episode 2 (for Descartes, whose whole philosophy was modeled to replicate proofs in geometry) was from the then-new first New People album, and that’s not a bad version of the tune, given that we put money into having it mixed, which involved careful, note-by-note fixing of our vocal out-of-tuneness, and Matt Ackerman’s guitars are always nice, and there was some nice tambourine and keyboard on there added by Steve Petrinko. That recording also came after having played it live with Matt and drummer Julian Salgado Laredo for a couple of years, where it was always a big set closer. However, that performance is also pretty darn slow and lacks the wild abandon with which we’d sometimes play it live.
This newly remixed older version is the model which inspired the New People version: it was a recording-only thing, laid down not long after the song was written, with me playing my spastic nylon-string guitar, and more importantly Mark Doroba, who came up with the whole “chunk chic-a chunk chick-a chunk” part that runs through all the verses, as well as his cool, sustainy lead parts that harmonize with each other and open arpeggiated chords. As with the other songs for this album, I copied my guide parts (and I think the completed drums) onto his digital recording unit, and he came up with parts on his own, having never played them with or for me, and I think this was his most successful effort.
Speaking of drums, these were recorded–again, with no rehearsal, but in this case, with me running the recording session–in a one-off meeting with Dave Thibodeaux, who was the then-roommate of my most recent bass player (Sam Ray), and Dave pulled a mighty, wild Keith Moon (from The Who) sort of part.
This was one of the first songs from this album project actually finished after I moved away from Austin in 2000, though it may well have been 2003 before it was done… I did a write-it-as-you-record-it-in-bits bass part in late 2000, added my guitar and lead vocal some time after that, and then I think took a year or two trying to get someone to sing the harmony with me before deciding just to leave (or redo? I don’t recall at this point) the harmony vocal I’d already recorded myself (which was replicated pretty much note for note when I had Matt do it for the New People version, though for that version we added an extra harmony line or two during the choruses too).
However, my computer-studio software and skills have improved since 2003, and given that I’ve now finished all but I think three or four songs from this album project and so will eventually put the damn thing on iTunes and Spotify and all that (you can hear the nine completed tracks together here), this episode motivated me to do a remix, particularly since I think on my last version the auto-tune software was doing hinky, random things given that my computer at that point didn’t quite have enough processing power to handle it.
Adequate auto-tuning has been one of my ongoing irritations in my recording in recent years. With New People albums, I saw exactly how time-consuming and meticulous this not-automatic process could be, where our engineer Jake Johnson listens to every phrase (in the lead and backing vocals) and decides whether and how much of the effect to apply to just that phrase. Now, in the recording software I typically use now (Cubase LE 5, which is good but not very feature-laden; it comes free with a number of recording interfaces, whereas if you buy it without the “LE” it costs more like $500 by itself), you can’t actually select individual phrases to apply the effect to. You can turn it on for the whole track, and adjust how severely it holds the track to what it thinks is the correct pitch from moment to moment, but if a phrase is just too out of tune for it to handle, then it actually tries to move it to the wrong note (i.e. it makes a badly flat note more flat, because it thinks you’re trying to sing the note below the right one).
For this remix, I finally stumbled across the obvious solution of duplicating the lead vocal track, with the Auto-tune effect applied to one of the versions and not to the other one, and then muting whichever sounded worse to me on any given phrase. So it provides the overall subtle improvement to the vocal quality (and I’m no purist; there’s a reason this thing is used on like 99% of recordings produced for the radio now, usually at settings much much more severe than I ever use), but avoids “fixing” the parts that it would make worse.
(The alternative, which I’ve done for some recent songs, is to open the vocal track along with some submix of the instruments in another program I have, Vegas Pro, which does support phrase-by-phrase application of plugins but is otherwise not as feature-rich as Cubase LE unless you’re concerned with doing video, and so creating a re-tuned version of the vocal which I can then open back up in Cubase. Doing this is time-consuming and irritating, though ultimately more accurate than what I did here.)
Ironically, probably the best performances of this song came from Madison Lint, my band from 2001-2004. The song was planned as the finale of that album, but we never quite got around to recording it before the sessions petered out. The drummer/guitarist/bassist for that band were simply tighter than either of these other versions, and from their first run-through of it made my jaw drop. I’ll have to upload one of our videotaped live performances at some point…