Monday, 3 November 2014

#47. IAmAI – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written late 2004.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.

Sorry for the hiatus. The reasons are irrelevant, but suffice to say I’ve been super busy, super lazy, and I started drinking beer again.

But on with the show. Let’s try something different with this one - let’s get all Buzzfeed/Cracked on it and do this blog as a ‘listicle’. Those things are hot right now, right? So here are five things you didn’t know about IAmAI (a song you’ve probably never even heard and therefore didn’t know anything about anyway).

1. IAmAI is a missed opportunity

The only recordings I have of this song are two so-so recordings made during two different rehearsals while we were still kinda figuring out how to play it. We never got around to doing it in a studio and didn’t play it live for long, which is a bit of a shame, ‘cos I really dig the song (more on that later).

A few months after we made this recording of the song, drummer Harry Fahey quit the band, and when new drummer Jarrod Hawker came on board (and we renamed ourselves The 80 Aces) this song fell by the wayside for some reason.

This photo was taken a matter of months before Harry quit.
See how pained he looks? PIC: Glen Watson.

Aside from it dying a quiet death, one of the main reasons I feel it was a missed opportunity is because it’s the kind of song that would have benefitted from a lot more playing and rehearsing. When I listen back to the above recording, I can hear Harry, bassist Matt Hewson and myself slowly gelling together in the jammy bits, occasionally locking in, but not quite getting there. A bit of gigging and more rehearsing could have turned the song into an epic monster.

It also would have benefitted from me being better at improvising and jamming. If only I’d known then what I know now.

Is this how you improvise? PIC: Glen Watson

2. IAmAI is about a robot

The idea for the song came from an intriguing notion vocalist Jade McLaren (at least, I think it was Jade) had about writing a song likening being a boyfriend to being a robot. There may have been some discussion about women eventually replacing men with robots or something, I don’t know – I don’t remember. What I do remember is we were trying to get some vague symbolism in there connecting boyfriends and robots. I’m not sure it really worked but reading back over the lyrics, I realised there’s a sad little story in there about a robot devoted to an owner who ultimately rejects him. I think it’s an interesting story. Probably an accident, but still kinda cool.

3. The title changed for nerdy reasons

This song was originally called AI and I’m now going to tell a really crap story about renaming it to IAmAI. You see, I didn’t know this recording existed until last year when Harry unearthed it while trying to find lost songs for my blog. All I had was a really shitty, one-mic recording of us learning the song. It sounds like shit.

Anyway, when Harry let me know he’d found this hitherto unknown recording of IAmAI, I told Harry I was doing the blog alphabetically (in case you hadn’t noticed) and joked that I’d have to rename the song to fit it in because I’d already finished doing songs starting with ‘A’. Harry jokingly suggested IAmAI as a new title because he thought it was cool to have a song title that was a palindrome. I thought that was cool, and Hewy agreed, saying it “tickles my wordy wicket”. Whatever that means.

Cool story, bro.

This film probably had something to do with the original title, 
as opposed to calling it, say, Bicentennial Man.

4. I really like this song

Jade pointed out recently that song sounds “sooooo ‘90s” which is maybe part of why I like it. It reminds me of The Smashing Pumpkins and some of their massive jammy epics, which build around a cool riff and are super-dynamic, ie. the loud bits are really loud and rocking and the quiet bits are really quiet and restrained.

I also like that it’s got weird chords, a slightly strange structure, and room to jam. It’s exactly the type of song I’ve been trying to write lately – songs that have definite parts to them but leave room for massive jams (mostly because I feel more confident in my jamming skills now). But it seems I accidentally wrote it about 10 years ago when I didn’t have the chops to pull it off.

The structure is something I’m particularly proud of because it’s different to everything else we were doing (which was usually double verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle eight-chorus). I always thought of IAmAI having two sections – there’s the riff, which forms the verse, and then the B section, which doubles every time you play it. First time around, the B section is two chords over four bars, then it’s four chords over eight bars, then it’s eight chords over 16 bars. You’re probably thinking “Whatevs!”, but I always think that kind of shit is cool.

5. When you don’t play is just as important as when you do play

I’d like to preface this last bit by saying Jade is a great singer. It was part of the reason I wanted to be in a band with him – being able to write for a voice like his was (and is) a wonderful opportunity. He’s got probably twice the range that I have, so it opened up so many songwriting doors.

Including this awesome-looking door, which led to 
our rehearsal room from '05-'07. PIC: Glen Watson.

This recording isn’t one of Jade’s finest moments. He probably doesn’t want me to post it, but sorry – the Anthology is nothing if not complete. When he’s wailing over the band jamming… it’s not good. He doesn’t need to be even singing there – he should just let the band do its thing and get out of the way. Jade will agree. Having said that, it’s a bit unfair to pick on this recording though, because it was made during a rehearsal where we were obviously still learning the song and figuring out what we could and couldn’t do with it.

But it does bring about an opportune moment to talk about one of the most important music lessons I was ever taught, which is this: when you don’t play is just as important as when you do play. It probably seems like a blatantly obvious idea but it wasn’t until someone actually put it into words for me (probably Harry) that I realised the importance of dynamics and working as a band and not a group of individual musicians. Where Hewy, Harry and Jade don’t play in this is just as important as when they do play.

Meanwhile, I just play all the fucking time in this one. Make of that what you will.

All the fucking time.
PIC: Glen Watson.


I’ll clean up after you and check your doors are locked
You can push me around and reprogram me

Accept me, even though I’m only wires

Customize me until I’m connected
I’m starting to feel like I’m at home

Accept me, even though I’m only doing what I was made to do

My circuits are user-friendly
You have been saved into my memory banks

Accept me even though I’m only thinking in numbers

My time has run out, the new model has arrived
There’s no farewell for me, I’m on the scrapheap

Reject me after all I’m only wires
I’m only wires 

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