St Rotfest and the Death Monastic

For better or ill, this is probably the most enduring of my music.

I wrote The Death Monastic (hereafter TDM) in one Reason 3.5 project as part of a proto-RPM Challenge called Auld Lang Sine. It was started and finished in early 2005. It’s admittedly a simulation of cross-fades between different tracks a la DJ set, but composed in one go, with some tracks that might have held their own as entire singles and others that were perhaps a little too bland to carry their own weight. It runs a little fast to my ears now and because I did my own mixing and mastering–big air quotes around that word; I just shelved anything off under 30 Hz and tried to tame the treble a bit after running it through a 3:1 compressor–it doesn’t have the substantial sound of its contemporaries, much less the sonic wall of modern neuro.

A friend of mine drew the cover art for $50. For whatever reason, he drew it at the wrong aspect ratio–it looked more appropriate for a cassette tape–so it had to be “crunched” to fit the perfect square of a CD. It was only distributed online, so who cares?–but at the time, CD was still the dominant distribution format, so that’s where my mind was.

Conceptually, TDM was all about the end of the world. The tracks all follow a specific arc not unlike the stages of grief, but the concepts and titles are a bit out of order in hindsight; there’s more anger between the middle and penultimate acts than there was any sort of bargaining or acceptance. The apex of the arc–Matron (remix)–is a sort of “coming home,” that decision to accept that the world is indeed ending, that we’re returning to our collective mother. Carbon remains as the heavens fall and Earth is torn asunder; Rapture, the start of a new world bereft of hope.

Matron and Fuck Reality both appear as remixes in the track listing, but I did not work with any of the source material directly so it was generous to call these remixes. Covers, maybe? Conceptually, Fuck Reality was extra-simple, with that synth line hammering a minor second and tri-tone with all the dissonance and anger I could muster, but very civilized as a “remix;” the original was my first dabbling in Buzz, and I found some nasty distortion machines that were so much rougher than anything I had tracked before…but I digress. Carbon was an actual remix, an unreleased track written in Reason and modified for import into the tail end of TDM.

Though I’ve always been forthcoming about it when asked, I must confess the turntablism in No Better Reason isn’t my work. It’s very careful work with recorded scratches and ReCycle to arrange it; I was flattered that a few folks thought I did it myself. Would that I were such a badass. If ever I scratch, and I don’t have the requisite equipment, I’ll at least learn how to do my own work with TerminatorX or something next time.

In the info file accompanying The Death Monastic, I promised (oops) a subsequent release called St Rotfest and The Lazarus Experience. Obviously, we’re still waiting. And there’s an overwhelming sense of obligation surrounding that idea for me; that even if not one shit was given about my music, I still have to deliver. I’m simultaneously humbled and bewildered that thirteen years on, people still ask me about TDM from time to time, and as I’ve grown considerably as a person since I wrote it, I think Lazarus could take some interesting new forms.

If I composed and delivered it today, and I kept it in the vague frame of “bass music” or, to borrow a colloquialism kicked around since the IRC days, “beatshit,” I do anticipate it would sound vastly different than TDM. I’d like to think it would sound more complete, more hopeful, less bitter–it would be, after all, a story of resurrection and redemption–but it would probably also not be a hasty cross-fade of insubstantial tracks intended to simulate an end-of-the-world DJ set; rather, it would be a collection of tracks, an album proper.

It will be done when it’s done, but I think it’s time to get started.