Jagged Spiral… in the Studio?

Ha, that’s rich. We’re always in the studio. Mostly because we aren’t allowed in many other places. Next, we’ll be bragging that we’re recording something. Here’s a tip… we’re always recording something. Song ideas, rough demos, XXX vids with the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, covers of Bjork B-Sides…

The real news is what we recorded. We ran several test recordings of drums using different microphone configurations. We taped a credit card to the kick drum head, and ran the kick drum microphone through an overloaded tube preamp. Then we mixed, monitored, moved microphones and tried again, refining our drum sound as we went along.

It doesn’t sound like Slayer. It doesn’t sound like Metallica. Thank God.

It sounds like Jagged Spiral. Squared. The sound of the drums alone will probably get us on several lists:

  • City of Minneapolis – List of Known Disturbers of the Peace
  • Mix Magazine – List Of… Unique Ways To Record Drum Tracks
  • Alcoholics Anonymous – List of Reasons Not To Drink
  • Vita.mn – List Of The Best New Bands In Minnesota

You heard me. Anyway, our manager Sugar has given me permission to officially announce that Jagged Spiral has begun recording our second album. The working title is “Ten Easy Ways To Kill Yourself” but that title will likely change.

But don’t get yourself all worked up. We have the studio booked for a long time.

Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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Rough Demo of Horrorcloud Posted to Myspace

Hey all, been a bit. We been busy, see. You don’t rush greatness. You don’t rush us neither. We played a couple shows recently… funny, we don’t remember seeing *you* there. Maybe you forgot to go? Maybe we were drunk and forgot you went?

Anyway, *if* you actually did go to any of our shows, then you would recognize the song Horrorcloud. (Here’s a hint: It’s the song without the word “Horrorcloud” in it)

We hacked out a rough version of Horrorcloud tonight and fluffed it up with enough compression that we could easily enter it in the loudness war with Metallica. We couldn’t win mind you, but we’d be in there somewhere. Probably on the back lines ordering supplies, making waffles and complaining about all the noise.

You can check out the new Rough Demo of Horrorcloud here on the Jagged Spiral Myspace Page.


Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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Album 2 and The Birth of “Northern Rock”

So while The Spiral winds down from their exciting first public performance, and gathers forces to begin the takeover of Minneapolis (and the World eventually, natch) there’s no lack of things to do; website updates and hashing out content ideas, video editing (Shh! Its a secret!), Days From Evil art concepts, credits, thanks, and thinking up ways to pay back all the good and nice people who helped us make a good and evil recording.

Although nine tracks from Days From Evil are now permanently etched in digital bits, don’t you dare think we’re out of ammunition. Not even close. In fact, we have enough raw material to make a second album! I actually have a CD pressed with all the rough track outlines, labeled mysteriously “V2”.

Lyrics and structure are locked down for three of the songs (Lament Part One, Push Me, and God Hates Emo, all of which debuted at the Halloween Party on Oct 27th, 2007) and rough lyrics are done for three others: Dragonslayer, Bad Kitty, and Horrorcloud. A handful of other tracks are just outlines now: Loon, Reign and Swap Meat. [Note: If you have a problem with the song names, talk to Colin – Z] but as we are working to put together a full set, I have no doubt these songs will pull together over the next couple months.

So how does the new stuff sound? Well, I’ll put it this way, the e-mails have been flying between band members about how to describe us, and what Genres we can actually fit into.

Looking at the list of bands we think we sound like (Black Sabbath, Tool, In Flames, Machine Head…) parks us pretty far into Heavy Metal territory, although I’ve never thought of us as a Metal band. Actually, I’ve never thought of Jagged Spiral as anything but “Jagged Spiral”. I don’t think bands should let genres push them around too much, but you do have to pitch your band, and here’s how you do it:

“Hey, listen to our band, [Band Name] we are a [Genre] band from [City] and we have one [instrument 1] and a [instrument 2] and a [instrument 3]”

Obviously, genre is a big part of any band’s identity, so it’s been interesting to look back at what we’ve done in such a short time and try to define it. After all the investigation, I’ve decided that Jagged Spiral exists on a plane between “Heavy Metal” and “Hard Rock”. Since we don’t fit neatly into either one, we made up our own genre: “Northern Rock”. So when people ask us what genre we are, we will say Northern Rock, which answers very little. Intuitive folks might pick up on the fact that we are Loud and Cold. If they press further, or require us to pick from the existing genres, we will say Heavy Metal, but you should really listen and decide for yourself.

Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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Lyrics for Ragnarök and the True Identity of the Antichrist

So I’m working on some lyrics for a song of a most peculiar nature, and I was wandering the wasteland of the internet looking for lyrics to end the world by. I was astounded to find out the TRUE IDENTITY OF THE ANTICHRIST!

No, Really! I really saw it! See, *that* is why I love the internet! It has Everything! The antichrist is so Totally Busted Out! HA! Yes, my friends, now I will share with you the name of the false shepard, the son of perdition, the agent of the world’s destruction:

Prince Charles of Wales is the Antichrist

I know, I was just as surprised as you are! I mean, he really doesn’t look that tough, I’m sure I could take him in a fair fight, but that’s the thing about those Antichristses, they aren’t likely to fight fair.

Like I said, I was kinda skeptical, but the proof includes the ‘fact’ that you can use some complicated mathematics to add up his name to get the number “666”. The math was a little awkward for me, so I simplified it here for you.

  1. Let any name that is “Prince Charles of Wales” equal the number 665.
  2. Add one, because, um, because there’s only one “Prince Charles of Wales.”

And WHAM-O!!! Now tell me that ol’ Chuck don’t have some SERIOUS explaining to do!

Never did find any good lyrical material though, but I’m sure there are plenty of words that rhyme with “Chuck”…

Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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Jagged Lyric Writing 101

Lyric writing is tough. Sometimes. On the “Days From Evil” album, I rewrote the lyrics to the song “Hallowed Ground” three times. *RE*wrote. Which means I wrote that God-Damned song four times, living with it through several rough recording sessions and living with the results for days, sometimes weeks before scrapping them in disgust.

In almost every case, I could tell as soon as I wrote the lyrics down that they weren’t right.

Yes, I actually write lyrics down. On paper. My preferred method is graph paper and a fine-tipped, black Sharpie pen, but often I end up writing on the back of some old German homework or a Chinese Take-Out menu; whatever is within arm’s reach when the lyrics start to flow. Junk mail addressed to “Occupant” also works well.

Inevitably, there are mistakes, or corrections, or improvements, or overhauls. Words get shuffled, replaced and rearranged. I try not to line out lyrics into illegibility at any point, just a couple quick lines through them, because several times I’ve gone back to lyrics I crossed out. I’ve only recently begun to have the laptop nearby to type lyrics as I write, but I still never delete lyrics that get replaced (even after the song is done) I move the words to the bottom of the page under an [Unused Lyrics] header.

There’s something about a lyric sheet that has all the corrections on it. I would love to have the lyric sheet that Fish used when writing “A Gentleman’s Excuse Me” or Roger Waters “Comfortably Numb”. Cut-n-Pasting on a computer is so sterile, and results in a perfectly antiseptic version of the song, all set to paste onto the internet, or the liner notes. But it’s missing the *process*. The crossed out words are the trail the author took to get where the song is now. I haven’t yet been able to part with any lyrics sheets even if they were later replaced with something else, even if they outright sucked. Looking through them is like looking through old pictures.

Sometimes Melody comes first. It helps to think of the lyrics as a guitar or keyboard solo. Hum random melodies or random lyrics (called ‘Scat’) over the top of the music, and see what lays well. Copying the melody from existing guitar rhythm will always work. It’s also almost always Lame-O, so start there if you like, but try to move away from the guitar rhythm as quickly as you can. If there are any existing solo parts, try to sing in variations of the solo. I’ve had really good luck making melodies out of the Drum line, a trick I discovered while listening to Rage Against the Machine. Punch your vocals with the kick drum, scat to the repetition of the snare. If you have trouble thinking up scat words to say, just grab a book, or open a newspaper and grab a phrase and repeat it different ways. I recommend Not using phrases that you recall from other songs, “Every Day is a Winding Road” or “Everybody Must Get Stoned” for instance; it is easier to use phrases that aren’t already locked to a melody in your head.

Sometimes Words come first. Listen to the rhythm and wonder what the song is about, as if the song were already written and your job is to guess what the lyrics are. Start with the mood and speed, that should be easy. Then think of the music as the soundtrack for a piece of video. What words describe the scene? What words can be used to describe what’s happening? I always like to start out with a theme for the song in mind before I start doing scat lyrics, ususally the band will come up a temporary name for the song so we have a way to reference it, and I will use that as a springboard for lyrics.

Rarely do people write lyrics for a song before a rhythm is set down, but it is possible. As an experiment, I came up with a melody line and wrote an entire songs worth of lyrics for even going into the studio. Then I picked up the bass and wrote a bassline to go with the melody. It turned out really well. The song is called “Push Me”, and sounds awfully “Pop” for Jagged Spiral, mostly because of the heavy vocal hook. Don’t forget that if you ever need a source of lyrics, you can always go back to your old unused lyrics from other songs! (That’s why you shouldn’t throw them away!) If you are poetic, or tend to write stories or poetry, there is another valuable source for lyrics.

If you are foolish enough to attempt a Concept Album, then the work of deciding the story/theme of the album will help you greatly by giving some direction to the song before you write a single lyric. In the case of “Days From Evil” the album concept developed after 3 or 4 of the songs were finished. As the other songs developed, we would consider where they would best fit in the overall concept. Some of the songs were difficult to fit in, and it took an artistic handgun license to coerce them into position. For instance, the song “Monsters” sounds like it is told from the perspective of a child. So it only made sense to have it at the start of the album, but unfortunately, it’s not a very powerful start. It was moved to the second track, and considered a ‘flashback to the hero’s youth’.

For those brave few souls who have read this far, I give to you my best kept secret: Burn a CD or load your MP3 player with a version of the song and take it in the car with you. I do my very best lyric writing in the car, while on the way to or from work. Yes, I am the fool you see screaming at the top of my lungs on the way up 169N. Even better, if you have a long distance to drive, just loop the song over and over. If you get stuck or frustrated, turn the music off, or sing along with other songs, and come back to it later. Planting the seed of the song with unwritten lyrics into your subconscious may have some interesting results. I have pulled the car over to write lyrics on a napkin because a sudden lyric jumped into my head that was completely unrelated to the morning DJ talk…

Oh yes, always carry something to write with, so you are ready when lyrics happen. I’ve actually used my cell phone to call and leave a message at home of the scat vocals before they slipped away.

Persistence is the key. Even if you think you have something, keep singing it, and be critical and honest with yourself. Get a second opinion from someone who is going to be honest and objective with you.

Two last things to think about when writing lyrics:

  1. Don’t be afraid to let lyrics stay that you aren’t happy with. I’ve dropped some random words into a song line and kept them there “till I think of something better” and actually grew to like them.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let go of lyrics that you like, or worked Really Hard on. Yes, it was a difficult road to the second rewrite of “Hallowed Ground” but it just knew that it still wasn’t right, even though everyone said the lyrics were ‘just fine’. It was almost painful to completely scrap months of hard lyric work and start over a third time, but in the end (on the DAY before we went into the studio to record the lyrics) I rewrote the song, thinking that we could use the new lyrics if the band liked them better. In the end, we all agreed the new vocals made the song much better.

Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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Video of Police Shutting Down Jagged Spiral Jam

We’ve always said that nothing can stop Jagged Spiral, but the other day we found something that did:

The Police Department.

To facilitate some carpet cleaning, Monday’s practice was moved from the basement to the garage, and it was obvious that we would be heard, but it was just for one time, and our practice session was to be short; from 5 till 8 PM, although the noise ordinance does not require us to turn down until 10PM.

We didn’t touch a single song on Days From Evil, instead making use of the practice to do a quick run through the new song Bad Kitty and to do more creative and structural work on two new songs, which are currently called Dragonslayer and Horrorcloud. (You will have to ask Colin about where “Horrorcloud” came from, I think it has to do with Pizza Luce’s Garlic Mashed Potato Pizza and his digestive system.)

We were totally rocking, the song structure for the songs was really gelling, and the Jagged Spiral Music Train got rolling, and then…


Knock, knock.

The music stopped. It was my neighbor, an older woman who keeps a very nice lawn. I don’t know her name. Um, she’s from two houses down the block.


“Hi, I just wanted to let you know we were just listening to you guys play, and I wanted to tell you, we Love your music!”


“Hell yeah! That band, the one that does that song ‘Iron Man’, you know the one?”

“Kind of.”

“You sound just like them!”


“Yeah! Anyways, we were just outside listening to you play, and had to come over and let you know we hope you will keep playing?”


“All summer long! That would be great!”

“Um, thanks.”

Strange. Of course, Colin and Josh heard the whole exchange, and were thrilled. New fans! Oh well, don’t let it go to your head. We picked up the reigns and started off again, the avalanche of music was building to a cresendo, nothing could stop it….


Knock, knock.

It was the police.

I’m not sure I would have accurately remembered the next couple minutes, being pulled from THE ZONE back into reality so quickly. Thankfully we had the videocamera running the entire time, and the police officer was kind enough to step right into the frame as though we had planned the whole thing:

Turns out the sound ordinance also has some nonsense about sounds being detectable within 50 feet. News to me. Guess I’m gonna have to look that one up.

Conrad Zero LogoYours Darkly,

Conrad Zero

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