“LOSE YOURSELF” (2012)
The times we live in are sometimes quite disturbing. When I first sat down to brainstorm for this record I felt I wanted to give listeners a world to escape in, to relax and enjoy. However, being surrounded by all this madness, it felt like I couldnt just ignore what is going on in our society right now. We are on the cusp of a revolution. The amount of information we get bombarded with every day is just insane. The intro tries to capture that. Most of the audio snippets are off public television and the internet: phony commercials, crazy televangelists, info about payday loans, etc..
The foundation of this track is the male choir that reminds me of a christian-orthodox chant. It consists of 14 vocal takes stacked in mostly octaves and fifths. I love the guttural and archaic vibe, mixed with snippets of Dony’s majestic drums.
Based on a riff that popped into my head while driving, this tune was an eye-opener in many ways. Developing its sonic possibilities eventually led to playing with Dony Wynn, whose Bonham-esque energy jives perfectly with the idea behind. I was hearing an oriental-type theme with a heavy groove. The riff is very straightforward but the odd meter gives it a cool mind-boggling quality. Generally, the form is quite complex. Almost every section is in a different time signature, with groups of 6,7 and 4. Having worked with cellist Steve Bernal before, I felt he would be the perfect man to double the riff instead of a second guitar. What a unique sound we achieved by doing this! To me this tune sits right between heavy rock, psychedelic and chamber music/contemporary. Indeed, “Awakening!”
This one is one of my personal theme songs of this album. During the initial brainstorming phase I was still planning to do a joyful, blissful “Lose Yourself” kind of “escape into a dream world” kind of record. However, I quickly realized that this would be denial of the reality around me. When media is bombarding you with fear-building quasi thruth, when laws to further restrict personal liberty are being pushed by corporate-controlled government, and when a patriot act allows the authorities to hold me in custody no questions asked, I feel like crying out and speaking up. Is this the freedom and liberty of the US of A? Being a guest of this great nation, I observer from a different angle and feel I was able to capture a prognosis that might very well come true in the near future, if no major change is happening. Besides that, I think this is a very fun track with a great beat, some Pink-Floyd like guitar tones and a catchy chorus.
4. I Feel It, Too
Imagine walking through a cornfield, far away from the city streets. An eagle is flying high up in the sky as your thoughts wander off and you think about your life. A good friend back in Austria always challenged me to write a great song with only three chords. I feel that this one is the closest I’ve ever got. I love the rich textures and stacks of voices blending together with beauty and grace. The arrangement keeps building towards the end, where I play the melodic lead on a gorgeous vintage Les Paul that my friend Jason Lynn let me use. The fat and juicy tone made it very easy for me to be inspired and wail away.
“We are just passengers in an endless stream of time”. Something like that could have been the inspiration for this endless strem of repeating notes, intercepted by periodical fills. The loop is based on a live improvisation I did on a solo looper performance, like I have been doing it so many times. It is a true blessing to capture my long-time musical partner and amazing singer Ena featured on this one.
Inspired by a real living person, this song draws a picture of a guy that got into drugs and other addictions early in his life because of lacking acceptance from his parents. I tried to achieve a melodic kind of heaviness. The combination of cello and guitar again proves to be great fit. Ena’s vocals help the lyrical quality of this song. This was never intented to be the album’s title track but somehow kept gravitating towards it, until I accepted the fact that this was it – Lose Yourself.
What first looked like a desaster quickly turned into something amazing. Lesson learned. When our first day of the recording session with the Network band ended disastrous and drummer David sierra called sick the next morning, things didn’t look bright at all. We only had one full studio day left to record 8 songs. I believe everything happens for a reason so I tried to figure it out. To take the pressure off everybody, including myself, I decided to surprise the players by starting with something completely unexpected. I wrote down three snippets of ideas: an African chant, a mysterious hip hop groove, and a fast rock beat. No form, no melody and no arrangement. “On the Run” is the result of the last snippet. It was done in one take, and everything is improvised except for the little cued bridge section. When we started blasting into this one, there were three stunned noses pinned against the control room window – a good sign to end a great day of recording!
As the title implies, this track pictures a person living in isolation. There is beauty and harmony but also suffering. Musically, this track has a long arch the resolves right before the solo section. The symphonic quality was something I have always heard in my music, starting when I listened to Prokofieff at a very early age. Another inspiration is the great work of Hans Zimmer, one of my favourite contemporary composers.
9 Magic Golden Pill
I still remember when this song came to me. I was hanging out at the pool on a sunny afternoon, with my thoughts drifting, when the title came into my mind. Immediately I mentioned it to my neighbor. To my surprise he responded: “Aww, a magic pill, that would be a great one to have.” I was shocked because being sedated like that is a horrifying vision to me. You see it in commercials – so many legal drugs to ease your pain – but only for a while. No cure, just a sedation. It convinced me to create this dual quality of the lyrics against the unassuming, folky music. During mixing, Boo MacLeod quickly came up with some filters and distortion to further help shape this character of denial. Guaranteed without any side effects….
Believe it or not but this track is another pure improvisation. It’s a conversation between Dony, Steve and me that keeps building and building in intensity. It allowed us to let off all the steam that had built up from a long day of highly concentrated recording, playing heavily structured arrangements. This is the extreme opposite: an organic chain of musical thoughts, driven by a life force and “jeux de vivre”. It was a remarkable experience to capture this energy in one moment in time, and I am really thankful for it.
11 All Within You
This song was recorded after everything else had already been mixed. When listening to the body of work and all the rich, huge sounding arrangements I felt that I had left something out. There wasn’t a single track that was bare and stripped down, just a clear message delivered in a pure for. That’s what this track is. Recorded by myself in an apartment, the lyrics reflect on the fact that eventually, inner peace and happiness can only be found within oneself, not with the help of external sources. We are so easy to get side-tracked…
Ulrich Ellison – vocals, guitars, synthesizer + programming
Dony Wynn – drums www.donywynn.com
Steve Bernal – cello, bass stevebernalmusic.com
Ena – vocals www.enasmusik.at
Brady Muckelroy – bass www.bradybass.com
David Sierra – drums
John Bush – percussion www.foamymusic.com
Winton Reynolds – keyboards www.wintonreynolds.com
Andrew Stearns – scary voice www.andrewstearnsphotography.com
To watch the complete documentary, download B-side tracks, early layouts and scratch tracks, log on to www.patronism.com/ulrichellison I want to share all of my music with you and invite you to join me there. Your membership enables me to keep releasing compelling music without the need of a record label, instead it’s just you and me