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To Beard or Not to Beard? Part II

In April, Saar and I began writing music and lyrics for American Murder Song‘s next chapter: The Donner Party. In preparation, we read a couple of books and watched some documentaries on the subject. We even retraced parts of the ill-fated party’s historic journey on a research road trip. Once we felt that we had a firm grasp on The Donner Party story, we dove headfirst into our writing labors, and it’s been a nonstop creative treadmill ever since.

Saar’s and my writing process has always been an intense one. We routinely workshop the hell out of our concepts and songs, challenging ourselves to find new ways to tell compelling stories through words and music. The Donner Party writing process has been no different, but our timetable has been more expedited.

Early this year, we set some hefty goals for American Murder Song. To achieve those goals, we laid out a pretty demanding schedule of milestones that we needed to meet. One of those milestones was to be recording a The Donner Party album in June. June, as in this month.

Normally, when we’re in writing mode, we meet twice a week to discuss one or two song drafts, rough musical sketches that we each concoct during that same week. With our Donner work, we’ve been meeting every other day, and each writing a new song idea every single day. This has been going on without pause since April 2nd. To date, this schedule has produced roughly eighty distinct song drafts, with many more lyric revisions.

In February of last year, Saar and I were roughly at the same point in the creative process that we are now with American Murder Song‘s 1816 chapter. Feeling behind schedule at the time, we elected to a take a small excursion to Oceanside, California—a coastal city about two hours south of Los Angeles—for an uninterrupted two-day writing session (to read more about last year’s Oceanside frolic, check out my blog post titled, O Ye Who Trav’l In Blood!). The results of that coastal jaunt were so fruitful that we took another Oceanside excursion last week to get our Donner groove on, which yielded equally productive results.

I’m happy to announce that we just completed the songwriting process on The Donner Party, and we will be recording the album later this month. It’s some of the most audacious music we’ve written to date, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

As a bizarre side note: when in writing mode, I often become reclusive. During these periods, things like shaving often fall by the wayside, so it’s not uncommon for me to come up for air at the end of a creative sequestering with a wild, mountain man beard. This time, however, I discovered a new aspect of facial hair.

As many of you know, about six months ago I suffered from a bout of Alopecia. This autoimmune attack resulted in large patches of hair suddenly disappearing from my head and jaw, which ultimately led to my decision to shave my head.

My chin was one of the Alopecia casualty areas: two large bald spots formed around my cleft. Because of the odd look this created, I’d been shaving my chin whiskers on a more frequent basis than I normally would, but I had noticed over the months that fine, baby-like hairs had been slowly sprouting in the afflicted areas on my face and head.

When I went into The Donner Party writing/no-shave zone, I discovered that my beard had all but returned, but with the once missing areas now a stark white instead of brown. The pattern created by my new two-toned beard looked like something out of a comic book. What do you think of Ra’s al Z’unich?

Beard or no beard, I hope you’re excited for the new American Murder Song music. If you’ll be in Northern California this weekend, come by and pester me for sordid details on the new tunes at Stockton’s Sinister Creature Con. I’ll be at a table all Saturday and Sunday with pictures and Sharpees, so please drop by and say hi.

I’m also planning on bringing a couple of pieces of original artwork from Repo! The Genetic Opera‘s comic book sequences to the convention. These will be two of the most popular images from the film, images that have been locked away since the movie’s release in 2008. They won’t be cheap, but if there’s a super collector out there who’s readin’ this, this’ll be your chance to walk away with an original piece of cult cinema history. The artwork will be on display for all to view. And I’ll be there too, as a consolation prize. Hope to see you there!

  • Malinda Wickham

    Alas, Stockton to much too far for me to travel, but you, my friend, are not a consolation prize. You are a treasure.

  • Kristy Jacobs

    Looking forward to seeing you at SCC this weekend with my crazy, loveable offspring! Love the new look!

  • Kellie Stewart

    The salt and pepper look is a very distinguished look for you. I hope your alopecia is subsiding for your own personal comfort. With or without the hair, your smile is what always shines through. <3

  • Lisa Kay Hollingsworth

    I will be the most pestering pest I can! You are devilish in any form you take; and your adventures just as addicting. If I were rich I would own everything from Repo. 🙂 We, your fans are a dedicated and adoring bunch of miscreants, dare I say. My vote, beard. But it is Masters choice! See you in a couple days!!

  • Amanda McDonald

    I wish you could replace Nick Carter at Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta….. If anyone should be there with Ron Perlman, Tom Sabini and Bruce Campbell, it’s you sir! I’d be at that table in a heartbeat

  • Laurie Neufeld

    Oh my stars and garters, ’tis enough to give a lady vapors. Very distinguished, sir; salt & pepper is a fashion statement all on its own (then again, I may be biased because I’m in the same boat.) Perhaps another Count Tarakan song is in your future? As for the incredible amount of work you and Mr. Storm have accomplished? Wow, woweee, wowzers! So excited to know more, and I have a feeling the line at your table is going to be pesterfull, indeed.

  • Dana Grey

    Cool chin patterning. I’ve only just gotten my hair back where I wanted it after a medication induced bout of alopecia myself. It’s weird how the texture and color changed.

    I am looking forward to hearing the Donner piece of the puzzle. Does the story present how humans are able to survive no matter how hard things get, or is it more were cut throat and will survive?

  • Morrigan Leveau

    Yaaaas for the Beard!!! ♥

  • Emily Greene

    It looks like your alopecia is definitely doing better. The new look isn’t bad at all.

  • Little Nikki

    Actually, you’re suddenly channeling thi s handsome devil, The Sinister Minister, James Mitchell!

  • Samantha_Derryberry_Jung

    Very nice sir! I love the beard. I also wish you would head in a more southeasterly direction the next time you, Saar, and the gang meander across this nation of ours. Excited for the new music!

  • Kelley Pegelow

    So excited to hear the results of your and Saar’s work. I’m ready for more murder. The beard is quite dashing! But let’s be real, you could sprout cobras from your chin and still be handsome as ever.

  • Nicole Marie

    So then does that mean that you will have new music at Dragon Con? That means that Donner Party and Heart Shaped Wound will both be at Dragon Con…Well then I know where I’ll be!

  • Sharon Morgan

    Very handsome!

  • Andromeda Aristy

    I WISH I COULD GO TO THAT CON, but I went to Comicon 2 months ago. (IN which I cosplayed as the Painted Doll, btw) ;~; I personally prefer clean-shaved faces, but I say do what you think looks good, TZ! Have to say though, never seen a beard quite like that. :O The salt-and-pepper look is very unique!

  • Tessa Turner

    Does that thing in the background seriously say “I fuck nuns”?

  • Yeah, I’ve got yer next chapter….ROFLMAO…love the gray. Own it, Terrance – you’ve earned it. That’s how I look at mine, filtering itself oh-so-slightly into my normal ‘do. “Dye-ing is bad”…we’re all about living, even as we celebrate your murder songs and such. Sadly I’m going to have to step back from your upcoming tour, you boys incited my OCD to a whole new stupid level last year and it took me 6 months to freaking calm down. And THEN, you called me out for my Brokeback poster…a girl can only take so much from her indie poster boys, Terrance. I love you guys so much…there is just no shut-off switch for you, and I need one so badly. I’m terrified for the new music, at the same time that I can’t wait to hear it. Love you and your work, always and forever. <3

  • Stevie Williams

    I am incredibly excited about all of this. All of it. Including the white of your beard. It is very distinguished.

  • Kate Onyett

    The beard is distinguished, very so. It suits you, so fear it not.
    I agree with t’others below: what shines out is your smile; a gem of a feature, and the facial foliage brings it out to a nicety.I would advise, however, that you do not grow it out too long as yet. 40 years is too young for a patriarch’s chin-wedge. It is, however, just perfect for a roguish bit of roughage… ‘He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man…’

    Very much looking forward to the Donner album, and very happy for you that you’ve been having such a ball with the project- my joy to be heard and yet to be seen…. and get your collective butts across to Europe and the UK. We are in mourning for our common sense and the existence of the idiots in the Big House- and a wake, it is required…

  • Kae Kelley-Ottobre

    Oh dayum, love the beard!!

  • Rich

    Keep it
    Nuff said xD

  • Kell Brigan

    Pitching in a little late, but a) hellz yes, it works and b) it also looks natural, i.e. not like you’re “recovering” from something.

  • Messr. Night

    Lookin’ good, Ra’s al Z’unich! That the alopecia happened to strike in a symmetrical fashion is both surprising and worked out in your favour.
    Even with knowing about you and Saar’s writing process, it still floors me that you two wrote out 80 song drafts in a 2-3 month span. You boys are crazy. Industrious, but crazy.