Totally pumped song but putting it together was very painstaking and weird! Two drummers, two continents, several versions, tempos and studios. It was the most unnatural process. It was one of those things when you think you are done and then suddenly you get an idea that is a royal pain in the ass for everyone including yourself, but you know the song will improve because of it, so you do it. This `new idea` thing happened about 5 times on “Elixir”, and by the time it was done, I knew it was perfect. It became the first music video ever made for a song from one of my solo albums.
2. Street Demon (Santa Rosa Wrecking Crew Mix)
A different mix of this song was used on a special Drift Racing Music compilation that came out in Japan. This song is pumped! This was the first tune written for Loudspeaker, and kind of set the tone for the rest of the album. BTW the Santa Rosa Wrecking Crew is the one and only Dino Alden, who did all the dirty work with me on my first record, “Dragon`s Kiss”.
3. Black Orchid
I always like to have a punk power element to my music. I started playing because I loved Punk Rock, which at the time not only meant the Ramones and Sex Pistols, but also Kiss, Starz and the Runaways. Because of that, it is my basic instinct to sling my guitar low, play downstrokes (guitar talk…) whenever humanly possible and beat the hell out of my instrument. For the record, I really dislike `difficult sounding guitar music`. It takes a very tricky blend of aggression, melody, power and playing to keep my interest. Doing that is in fact way more difficult than making the `difficult` sounding guitar licks. That is probably why it takes so long between each of my solo albums. “Black Orchid” is unusual in the sense that it has the full on punk aggression (Ramones rip-off?!) plus some of the trickiest and definitely non-punk guitar playing I`ve ever recorded. To top it all off, my friend John Petrucci laid down a wicked ass solo!
4. Paradise Express
This tune is a little departure for me isn`t it? At least that`s what I thought as I was writing it. I was never sure I liked it at first but something kept me going on it. It sounds like something someone else (who, I don`t know) would do and maybe that`s why I liked it. I`m always trying to do stuff that doesn`t come by auto-pilot. I think I was trying to do something aggressive but with a beat that is normally not used in heavy rock or metal music. There is truly a lot of guitar on this song. When I played with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra on TV recently, they chose this song to do even though I wanted to do the more symphonic “Devil Take Tomorrow”. Go figure!
This tune rips! I planned from day one that this would be track one on the album. The record company didn`t want to put a cover song (by Japanese boy-band SMAP) as the first cut on the album, and they loved “Elixir” so that`s the way it went. Sometimes you just gotta pick your battles. This tune just feels so good, like a shot of adrenalin. This song is extremely well known in Japan and it is the kind of song that even when you hear it the very first time, you know where it`s going and you can sing along. I like songs like that. I don`t have time to play a song over and over, and I don`t like the kind of music that `grows` on you. Give it to me now! Anyway, I made this SMAP tune tons heavier (although the original is not heavy at all, straight up pop), threw in a lot of key changes and bells and whistles that may offend fans of the original version, but it just goes to show that a good song can be done a completely different way and still be enjoyed. Dare I say Cacophony meets Andrew W.K. meets the biggest boy band in Japan??!!
6. Glycerine Flesh
This song even sounds less like me than Paradise Express, vibe-wise. Of course the guitar playing completely gives it away, as I always wind up playing my own way, no matter what the backing music is. I was going after the vibe of “Questioningly” by the Ramones, a strummy almost `country played by punks` vibe, which I just love, especially since I`m far from being a country music fan at all. In the guitar melody department I had a blast taking it all around the world musically, from China to Persia to Eastern Europe to the USA. There is a lot of intricate guitar on this song, I would hate to have to learn it if I were anyone other than myself. Not meaning that I`m “all that” or anything, but no one understands the way any player plays as well as the player himself.
This song shows the way I like a 7-string guitar to sound. The song was written entirely in the studio. Jeremy Colson and I recorded a long ad libbed jam session and then went into the control room to pick out any juicy bits. We found a few and copied and pasted many, many times until we got something that resembled a song. Then I had Jeremy learn and re-play our newly created monster straight through so it would have a feeling of continuity. Even then it was almost 10 minutes long. I lived with that version for a while then hacked it down again a few more times until it felt real good. The long solo at the end was done completely in one take, I have the video to prove it!
I hate to let the truth out, but this was always the last priority song on the album! Originally written for the “Heavy Metal Thunder” soundtrack in Japan, it was too discordant to get any kind of simple vocal melody on it so it was scrapped for that project and I wrote “Love Terrorist” with Aikawa Nanase which eventually made it to that album. Viper kicked around in various demo forms, adding little bits now and then, but never really kicking my ass. It got a huge shot in the arm when Steve Vai added some wicked solos! When I heard them I knew I had to come to the table with the goods myself. I had to really get serious and kick the tune up a few notches. So I added an intro (MANLY guitar tone, people!), edited in a few neat little breaks and did some guitar `battling` with Steve. I`m really glad I didn`t give up on this one, it`s one of my faves on the album.
9. Coloreas Mi Vida
Recorded on 3 continents, bass in Cyprus, vocal, piano and ambient sounds in LA and all the rest in Tokyo, it`s only fitting that the title be in Spanish. Ramin and Geri from Supreme Beings of Leisure added so much delicious stuff to this. I played on their latest album as a trade for their work on this song. I just can`t make an album without one semi-romantic song on it, as hard as I try.
10. Devil Take Tomorrow
This title comes from a Louis Armstrong tune, it`s such a cool thought. Tonight is really all that matters, let the devil take tomorrow. I almost didn`t record this song. It was about 3AM, at the end of the last LONG drum day in LA with Jeremy Colson, and I was about to call it a night. I had this tune worked out in my mind as far as the chord changes and the basic melody, but it was one of those things where you are so incredibly exhausted that you are thinking, “well, if it`s that good I`ll remember it for the next album. I just wanna get outta here”. My eyes were bloodshot, it was freezing in the studio (in LA!) and the thought of a nice warm hotel room was SO appealing but I thought, let`s just do the tune! We did one take with the drums and my guitar live and that wound up being the only take. That live guitar track is actually the track you hear playing the chords at the beginning and ending of the song. Normally I would have re-cut that with a more suitable sound, but after listening to it I decided that I probably could not have played the part any more to my liking than the way it was played, so kept it exactly the way it is. I really like the way the last chord rings, for me it was the perfect way to wrap up the album.
11. Static Rain
This is the ending theme of the weekly TV show I do, “Rock Fujiyama”. I wrote it in less than a day, and recorded it in 2 days, along with my friend Kirito who supplied the vocals and lyrics. Sometimes good things just come naturally and this was certainly the case here. I probably would have preferred a real bassist to do the track instead of doing it myself, but time constraints made that impossible. I played bass on a few tracks on this album. I have never been a fan of my own bass playing. I am happy about the fact that no one has complained about it on this song!
(Static Rain instrumental version-Europe/US)
Rather than just copying the vocal melodies on guitar, I decided to add some trippy countermelodies, abstract non-vocal style guitar harmonies and a really fast guitar breakdown with clean tone towards the end of the song. This song is such a vocal song, that I feel very lucky that it worked out so well as an instrumental too.