Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Old UPhold: Songs About Neighbours

Nothing inspires like anxiety so it's no wonder that I've recorded so many songs about neighbours. I've just posted two old GREENman songs about living in close proximity with other human beings.

The first, an excerpt from "September," is part of an entire ALBUM about bad neighbours in student housing. We'd just moved into a student slum and I found the place to be incredibly stressful; the Bunny Killer was alternating wild sex with masochistic beatings on the other side of my particle-board bedroom wall, most of our neighbours were drunken frat boys, and there was pasta in the toilet.

I recorded "The Grey Yonder" over the first six months (which were by far the worst). "September," the first track, packs in all the chaos and fear and anxiety that I felt during the first few weeks, with Scott Irving whacking away on his bass guitar. I like it a lot but it's ugly. It's no coincidence that I'd been listening to a new cassette by Antiform at the time.

The second "bad neighbour" track is "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort," which originally appeared on "Drabbletales" (though this is a slightly remixed version from the "Snakes on Ice" CD). Also recorded in The Grey Yonder, this was about trying to sleep during the daytime while working night shifts in a donut shop (see an early draft of the words, above, written illicitly while on the job). Just when I'd finally begin drifting to sleep, the guy downstairs would blast his bad techno at top volume and my bed would literally begin to shake.

PS: Synchronicity! "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort" is mostly based around samples from Frida ("Comfort Me") and Agnetha ("The Heat is On.") See the post about ABBA, below. ABBA was my obsessive solice while living in The Grey Yonder.

Both songs were recorded on cassette 4-track. "September" is pretty much a free-form composition (with an additional two tracks layered on afterward), while "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort" was sequenced on a nutty Yamaha QX-21.


Eric Little said...

I've meant to ask you this for a while:

Why the name GREENman? I ask because Kingsley Amis wrote a novel called "The Green Man" (a ghost story in which God makes a guest appearance), and I had to research the phrase for the section in my book on it.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

He stole it from ME!

No, not really. At the University of Waterloo, the plant operations workers were nicknamed "green men," because they wore green overalls (and tended to be men, though this was 1993 or so).

The campus has an elaborate system of underground "steam tunnels" that everybody (especially me) wanted to explore. Rumour was you'd get expelled if you were caught inside, but the green men had full access (though I personally never saw one go in or out).

The thought of these tunnels fascinated me, and the subterranean green men captured my imagination. I guess I wanted to be a "green man" too!

As for capitalizing "GREEN," I think it came down to the Letraset templates I had when I put together the first tape.

The reason I changed the name (to UPhold) was because there were too many bands with "green" in their names at the time.

Eric Little said...

Thanks for the explanation. Here's what I learned:

The Green Man is most widely known as a kind of personification of the woods and vegetation--a remnant of the legend of the King of the Wood of the Druids, associated with the oak tree. Hence the mask-like figure that people put in their gardens or on their walls.

In Amis, the Green Man is a destructive demon (hints are that it came originally from the New World) that the ghost of an evil doctor wants to resurrect to wreak havoc. The charm that summons it is buried underground in Dr. Underhill's grave. A scattershot novel, but with a nice creepy center, modelled on the ghost stories of M.R. James--with a lot more sexual overtones thrown in.

Henry Treece also wrote a novel called "The Green Man," who in this case is Amleth, prince of Jutland (yes--that guy).

So, some subterranean connections after all!