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Showing posts from July, 2007


Samarkand "Involution" MP3

Here's another lost Samarkand track from the final - Painful Realization - batch in 1995. Mopey chords, piissyyy lyrics, slow tempo. That was the template. Was? Is? Will be? Dr Rhythm for drums, probably the Warlock definitely through the Zoom 9002, definitely El Macho Mannequin for the bass gweetar.

I was so proud of the three verse chords. I remember showing them off to Jeff and Marc in the waning days of Samarkand Thee Westerville Version. Jeff said "yeah, but the first and third ones are the just A minor in different positions."

Never let a little knowledge get in the way..

Your voice is ugly and I don't like what you say
Your ugly words hang in the air like clay
It doesn't matter how hard you try
Because of you I defy

I defy you to make your case and then be still
I defy you to make your case and then be gone

I lost her to the possibility
to the hope for something more
I lost her to the chance
that I wasn't her only reward



(It looks like we'll be doing another Samarkand gig on August 8, so.... back to Samarkand Mania!)

Samarkand "Living with the Pain" MP3

This song was a late contender for the aborted 1996 Samarkand album with the working title Painful Realization. The realization in question of course being the crisis of confidence I had in my musical pursuits. This is one of the last songs I wrote and recorded in that style, in that era. That's around the same time I started AUTOreverse & basically stopped trying to be a music maker.

Some of the Pitch Wheel pieces were done around this time as well, hence the prominent swirly keyboard action here. The music is uncharacteristically uptempo & bright. The lyrics are more negative than usual. Nice dichotomy or just a bad combination?

The guitar is tuned to DADGAD. I wasn't happy with the bass line originally because I wanted it to do its own thing & not just follow the guitar. Oh well. The drum machine is cranked up to I thin…


it looks like surveillance footage due to pointing a webcam at the camcorder screen. The Samarkand master video looks fine, don't worry.

Samarkand "Beautiful Kiss" 2007-07-14 - Madlab, Columbus, Ohio


Irreligion "Improv" MP3

This is kind of like Irreligion 2.0. You can hear that we're using the same gear as when we were playing with Elliott. Same drums & cymbals, same amps. But in this case, Ray is on guitar, Michael is on bass & I'm on drums. This was when my drumming finally got halfway decent.

This version of Irreligion was going to be an all-improv band, playing whatever kind of music you'd call this. I mean, it's probably standard fare for any jam bands these days, but in 1990, there was no precedent. Of course, many years later I'm aware that we were never alone in our musical explorations in the basement. Anyway the hope was to find a vocalist who could be a poet & frontman so we could just concentrate on heads-down musical noodling & the would-be Perry Farrell could do his thing & be the focal point.

We might've jammed with a couple of different singer/vocal guys at various points, it's kind of hazy now & I didn'…


Irreligion "Mystery Song" MP3

I'd love to tell you everything about this gothic funk jam but um I have no idea. Maybe it's a cover? Whatever it is, it perfectly encapsulates I think where we wanted to go with the whole funk-goth thing we were about at the time.

Ray's singing, I'm on guitar, Michael is slapping the Macho aka playing bass, Elliott on drums.

I think if we had been about 20% more serious, we could've taken Irreligion out of the basement, onto a stage somewhere. But in the end it just wound up being a brief stop along the way, between XYCHQ and Evil Bread. A strange but necessary part of the transition.

This was recorded on Christine The Death Box in my basement, sometime in mid/late 1990. Beyond that.... I have no clue. I mean, it still has its unique mutated charm to me. It's still an exciting sound that we were messing around with.

I don't know what the lyrics are.... maybe something from Ray's notebook. Or possibly mine? Or maybe t…


(in Parentheses) "Hope Fear Lie" MP3

Here's another song from early 1989, recorded on Christine Theee Boomboxxxe Of Deathe. Christine was kept down the hall, behind a door, due to the ridiculously high volume we were playing at. For no apparent reason. And the neighbors called the cops on us for maybe the first time ever, shutting down the whole party. So loud we were.

Ah, "Hope Fear Lie," I forgot about this one. It's the Cure meets Metallica, what can I say. Both influences were paramount at the time. It's a pity that the guitars aren't completely in tune, but oh well, you still get the idea.

(in Parentheses) was a vicious, brutal, caveman beast trying to better itself, an ape trying to walk upright for the first time. Some type of pissed-off cave creature walking out into the light. There's a strange naive finesse to the playing & songwriting. It's so stupid but so complex? A doomed little experimental microorganism with a tiny half-lif…


XYCHQ "Cancer Coffins" MP3

February 1989. Michael and I were in two bands together simultaneously. XYCHQ and (in Parentheses). Both of which played at this particular party.

XYCHQ was normally Ray singing, Jeff playing bass, Michael on guitar, me on drums. But there were one or two songs that I played guitar and sang on. "Things I Hate" was one, "Cancer Coffins" was another. Both were "searing" (cough) indictments of the shallow world around my 17-year-old self. Y'know, the social injustice of um people using tanning beds.

So yeah, this song "Cancer Coffins" was sort of a funky metal thing at the beginning. Then a thrashy riff for the chorus. And then the breakdown, which will be familiar to anyone who ever heard Devilcake's song "Fribble." or the (in Parentheses) track "Enthalpy." Hey, never let a good riff go to waste.

Michael slays the drums on this one. Jeff still on bass. I'm not sure why I was yelling…


Domestik Quarrel!!? "Xychq" MP3

Recorded July 23, 1988, using theee trusty olde boomboxe whom I nicknamed Christine after the Stephen King joint of the same name due to its tendency to eat everyone's tapes but mine. It made great recordings due to having a matched pair of stereo mics built in. I still have it, it still rules and it'll probably still eat your tapes but not mine.

So, where are we. Summer of 1988. The core trio of Michael Million, Raymond Lilly and yours truly I See The Stew had been playing together for a few months, first as The Uncultured, with Mark Ward on drums, then as Domestik Quarrel. I played guitar and wrote most of the songs, or was it actually all of the songs? I don't remember writing all the songs but I may have done that. Jeff Sampson played bass and was a wallflower. Michael Million played guitar and Raymond sang.

At some point we turned the corner & called ourselves Domestik Quarrel!!? . .... the name was Jeff's idea, the missp…


Ian C Stewart "Uptempo Dark Modern Disco Dancepop" MP3

Quite often with instrumental songs, I give them a name to remind me later of the overall vibe. This one was recorded some time in 2005 right here in this very room. I think the beat was done in Acid, or it might've been when I had the new Dr Rhythm for a brief while. The guitar is probably the Steinberger. Bass was probably the Steinberger. Keyboards...definitely the Proteus 1. I used ambient pads and slow swelling strings for a different feel.

The cumulative effect is probably just this side of a New Order reject. I'm still not sure where this song came from because I'm certainly not a New Order fan, nor do I listen to much uptempo dark modern disco dancepop in general. I guess it's better than accidentally writing uptempo fake willie nelson.


here's one for the masochists:

Ian C Stewart "Toothpaste Sandwich" MP3

From my third-ever 'album', Mucho Papa, recorded in April & May 1987. The Synsonics kept time while I tried my best to get through an entire song without stopping to tune or to play an out of key guitar solo. Unsuccessfully.

toothpaste sandwich
brush eat and go
toothpaste sandwich
who the f will know


that's right, this tape is for HIGH ENERGY MUSIC.

Ian C Stewart "Corner of the Sky" MP3

Ianeffective is most of the In Bursts stuff. "Corner of the Sky" never wound up being released despite being one of the stronger songs of the era. It went through at least two musical permutations but I guess I was still unhappy with some aspect of it in the end. Which is strange considering how enthusiastic I was at the time about "William Carlos Williams," which is a Hugo Largo ripoff for two bass guitars and um unique vocal performance. ? Exactly.

I think "Corner of the Sky," even at the time, felt like a blatant homage/parody of the Cure. Like, too blatant to be comfortable with, maybe. I don't remember. It's not a bad little song now, though.

at the center of the sky
is an escape loop for you and I
climb on top because you can fly
levitate and don't ask why

Samarkand swirly sticker 1993 Making this sticker thrilled me to no end. That was the earl…


Ian C Stewart "Not Sure" MP3

Iansane was a mixdown album in late 1993/early 1994. The seeds of the 1994 Samarkand EP Behind the Veil of Obscurity are here, some of them anyway. Same with the 1995 Samarkand album In Bursts, a couple of pieces wound up there.

The drum loop on "Not Sure" was yoinked from the Cure's excellent song "New Day." It was rare that I could get any workable drum loops on the Casio SK-5 since its sampling time was erratic at best. Ocassionally the erraticness worked in my favor & I got something unique. Mostly not. The guitar chords are in line with the era, mainly "Rough Draft Again," aka "I'm So Glad You're Back."

This song also could've worked as a Star*Pillow number. Hmm, perhaps it still could.

none of this makes sense
can't be happy with you

don't ask why
because I don't know
don't ask why
because I'm not sure


Ian C Stewart "Not Entirely Clear" MP3

The concept with this mixdown tape, Wordless Reruns, (and, yes, there always was a concept) was arty, experimental, instrumentals gone mental. But then the idea is preempted by probably a fresh batch of lyrics from my penfiend "Marian." Not her real name, obviously, but that's how it went in those days. The music I used for Marian's lyrics was usually uncharacteristic of my usual stuff, but I'm not sure how or why. It just worked out that way, I don't think I planned it out that much. I mean, beyond the broad concept. This batch of songs was also immediately pre-Euphoria Suicide. Even though I think this song is actually on Euphoria Suicide, come to think of it.

"Not Entirely Clear" sounds strangely serious. The new car smell was still pretty strong on the Dr Rhythm, which is why the drum programming is so over the top. GoodNESS. I think the acoustic might've been Todd's, or maybe I was just us…

SAMARKAND GIG BLOG: Madlab Saturday July 14, 2007


Columbus, OH
Saturday, July 14 2007

Crikey, what a night. Where to start. When Brian J Mitchell contacted me out of the blue about doing a solo guitar set at this gig, I don't think anyone had in mind that I'd open and close the show in two different bands. But, um, yeah. Give me an inch and pretty soon I'm practicing my rock guitar moves AND my drum fills.

The planets aligned for the first Samarkand gig since January 1994. Michael Million was already planning on being in town for the weekend, so it worked out perfectly. He still remembers all of the songs & can play whatever instrument is required. We had one rehearsal on Friday night to get acquainted with the whole thing, the updated arrangements, the effects, the, uh, whatever. The pyro cues. Not really.

The magic night finally arrived & we all descended on Madlab. I hadn't been there in many years. I've only played one gig there. FZZY PMPR op…


Samarkand "This Time of Year" MP3

The intro was done on Todd's old Casio. The rest of the song is kind of typical of my early 1990s style, which now sounds like all the wrong aspects of Jesus Jones, Curve and Ned's Atomic Dustbin combined. But this song represents a breakthrough in the Samarkand catalog. For once it doesn't rely completely on the bass line for the vocal melody. And the lyrics aren't just cliches.

When I recorded the vocals, I actually held a different Casio up to my face, playing the notes of the melody so I wouldn't forget it. Very smooth. Natural born vocalisto, me.

This is the first song on theeeeee remastered & expanded edition CD. Last disc in the aborted Samarkand box set.


The more I want you and tell you so
the further away you go
the more I want the less I get

where did I go wrong
I hate this time of year

This is the sound of the body shutting down
Nothing going in or out
In silence and contradiction
this is the sound of the body sh…


Samarkand "Equal Force rehearsal" MP3

Backtrack to fall 1992, to the practice rooms at Berklee in Boston. I somehow roped a few very talented peeps to play my songs with me. I'm still not sure how that happened. Jeremy Van Buskirk played bass, Stephanie Ralston sang, I played guitar & behaved badly, Chad Popple played drums. I hate to say that I took all of their presences in the band for granted, but I did. It was Jeremy's idea to call the band Samarkand & I guess I never bothered to think of a new one?

"Equal Force" dates back to early 1992, it was a rare excursion into an XTC-style swing. Chad was able to duplicate & enhance the drum machine programming I had done. I still like most of the song.

This recording is a bonus track on the remastered & expanded edition of the October 1992 green Samarkand demo we made. That's right, it's disc one of the aborted Samarkand box set.

the higher I climb the farther I fall
the farther I go the hard…



Samarkand "Exgirlfriend" MP3

This song is from the limited release cassette Sensitive, which was issued in a handpainted edition of 10 in January 1993. Naturally. Sensitive was 60 minutes of almost entirely brand new material, only one or two songs were recycled. It was recorded during what I thought would be my winter break from Berklee in 1992. Of course that turned out to be my permanent break from Berklee in 1992 since the cash had completely run out for my tuition.

All the songs were recorded on a borrowed 4-track, possibly Ray's Porta 05. I also had my uncle's massive Carvin PA, Sennheiser mics & Ludwig drums in my basement. All of which feature prominently on this here release, along with the brand new Zoom 9002 effects. Which was an amazing combination at the time, I really felt like the boundaries were down on the equipment end of things for the first time.

"Exgirlfriend" is a riff recycled from Domestik Quarrel day…



Samarkand "China" MP3

Here's an outtake from the summer 1993 recordings we did for the white Samarkand tape. "China" is like 15 minutes long, with two parts. This was the only pre-existing song Brian Lewis and Jeff Sampson had when we all started playing together in my basement. I believe it had lyrics but no one ever sang them! How's that for enigmatic. In retrospect the drum loop is too busy for this expansive yet understated song. Ah, well. Actually now it just makes the whole thing sound even more like the Cure's "Carnage Visors". Jeff played bass, Brian's on guitar, I'm on guitar, I believe Todd Skaggs did the keys although it might've been me. This song appears on the remastered & expanded edition of the white Samarkand tape CD, which was made as part of a Samarkand box set which was started but never finished a couple of years ago.

the first Samarkand flier October 1992 already off to an obsc…


Samarkand "Window (rehearsal)" MP3

This is Samarkand Frenzy week, in anticipation of our first gig in over thirteen years!

This recording was made in the basement during summer 1993. The lineup was Dr Rhythm on drums, Brian Lewis on guitar and keyboards, Jeff Sampson on bass & me on guitar & vocals. "Window" was mostly written by Jeff, except for the fruity major-key middle eight I apparently insisted on inserting. Which was mine.

The lyrics were a culmination of things that were in my head at the time. I had a postal friend whose full first name I thought was Window. I applied the old cut-up strategy to the lyrics, so the imagery of falling out a window was all out of order. Falling out of a window might've just been that week's variation on the theme of being down, being depressed, being down in a valley of deep depression. Or something, who knows.

slipping back into the night
sinking like a rock
looking back at where we were and
wishing I was there

I ca…