I often write about the creative process here, routinely describing it as a perilous and financially-devastating journey, albeit one that’s ultimately rewarding. As such, is it any wonder that my latest art project is set against an early nineteenth century American frontier, where a young country, bent on discovering and establishing its voice, battles against climate, terrain, itself… and those unfortunate souls whose land it meant to claim? And did I mention that the work’s central theme is murder?
Yep, whether destiny is manifest or actually earned, getting a project off the ground can be murder. It takes courage, thick skin and a dash of madness. It can also drive one to commit murder (or at least to meticulously fantasize about how, when and where one might execute the bloody deed). One feather pillow. One handgun with silencer. One tube of lipstick with which to scrawl message on bathroom mirror… and voilà! A new project is born.
Except that it’s never that simple.
The new project’s called American Murder Song. It’s a collection of original murder ballads by The Devil’s Carnival co-composer, Saar Hendelman, and myself. We’ve been developing the world, characters and tunes for over two years.
Like with all ambitious creative endeavors, the past twenty-four-and-some-odd-months on the project have been wrought with heaps of failed drafts and fund-raising frustrations, but also sprinkled with a fair share of fun and flask-fueled adventures.
A month ago, to shake up our routine (and shake off our writer’s block), Saar and I took a creative field trip. We caught a train south, from Los Angeles to Oceanside, California, where we spent the day by the beach duking-out song lyrics, historical timelines and the logic behind a fabricated 1800’s card game that will play an integral role in American Murder Song‘s storyline. We became so immersed in the creative tasks at hand—and with the whiskey we began sipping as the sun went down over the ocean—that we missed the final train home that night. A minor panic ensued, but the extra time allowed us to get more work accomplished, and our hands just a tad bloodier.
After many moons and misadventures, I’m excited to share that American Murder Song is very close to being ready for public release. We’ve already begun recording the project’s albums, which included a day of group vocal recording two weekends ago at a studio in North Hollywood. There, we tracked a chorus of kids (daughters and sons of friends and family, who sang with sunglasses on so that they could feel more like rock stars), an octet of church carolers (who we rehearsed with at their prayer center amongst hanging crucifixes and murder shape note charts), and a mob of drunken friends who we needed to sound like a rowdy barroom sing-along. The day’s lineup could not have been more diverse, and I was happy to pop my conducting cherry with the wine and brew crew.
Making art in that recording studio with friends and colleagues was a real treat, and a refreshing reminder of why we mortals go to all the murdersome trouble of creating in the first place: to make lasting moments and experiences that would have not otherwise existed. I’ve even been breaking out the ol’ drawing pencils and pads for AMS, something that I haven’t really done in years. The experience is calling up how much I enjoy transforming an empty canvass into a complicated (and hopefully, damn bloody sexy!) universe.
In a little over a week, we beginning filming and photographing the first round of visuals that will accompany the project’s release. The cast and crew that we’ve assembled is impressive, and the props and wardrobe are going to be bad ass. I’m really looking forward to sharing the murderous fruits of these labors with all of you very soon.
In the meantime, if you aren’t already doing so, I invite you to Follow The Mark. Like Cain of old, the characters in American Murder Song who have committed the M word bear a mark for their murderous deeds. Follow The Mark to get all the latest news and updates on the project and its release.