A Season of Songs, day 7: The Ever Growing Coalition of the Willing

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

I hadn’t prepared for this possibility with the project, but here I am today, having to write about a song from one of my own bands.  Today’s song is “The Ever Growing Coalition of the Willing“, taken from the “Genealogies and Collaborations” LP that my old band He Taught Me Lies put out with our friend Rick Gribenas.  That record was released by Hardtravelin’ (my record label) and Hope Records in April 2004. It wasn’t a split LP in the classic sense – some songs were strictly HTML songs, some were HTML songs that Rick added some sounds to, and still others were collaborative soundscapes created by the band and Rick together.

When is enough enough?
When we’re all hung up on Gallup’s Poll
When we’re all strung up on the Gallow’s Pole.

Originally this record was intended to be a split LP with our friends Movement Three from Kentucky but they ended up having some personnel shifts and we decided that maybe that wasn’t the best idea for the time being.  Instead we asked our good friend Rick Gribenas who did a variety of sound-based performance art (as well as other types of art) to join us on the record.  The HTML only tracks were recorded by Jason Kirker at H-Hour (in the top floor of the old Brass Factory building in the Strip) while the collaborative tracks were recording in the original Roboto space one afternoon.

This record is very special to me for a number of reasons.  I think it stands as the best representation of HTML’s music.  I regret that we never took the opportunity to give a proper recording to our last batch of songs.  I see the vast improvement that we achieved from our first CD to this record.  We knew more about how we wanted things to sound and how we wanted the parts to come together and I imagine what we might have done had we tried to put out one more record during out time together.  Jim moved away in 2006 (I believe) and we continued to do occasional shows throughout the next few years before playing our last show together in February 2010 as part of the last weekend of shows at the original Roboto space.  The time period marked by the writing, recording and “supporting” of this record was a good period of my life and this LP acts as a snapshot of that time.

Another reason this record holds such a special place in my heart is that it was one of the last big projects I got to do with Rick. Rick helped me with a number of my projects over the years (record labels, screenprinting, etc) and I helped him with some projects.  He was also my boss for a time when he handled exhibition installations at CMU’s Miller Gallery and I had decided to quit my steady job working in human resources.  Rick was a great friend and an inspiration.  I learned a lot from him – about art, music, art installation, project management, being a good person, old school hiphop and so much more.  He brought a lot of joy to my life.  He would go to live in Chicago for some years before returning to Pittsburgh but we wouldn’t necessarily ever connect like we did around the time we worked on this LP.  He would pass away in 2009 from cancer.

I remember once when talking with Rick about our first CD.  I was comparing the recording and our playing on it to another local band’s release.  I just wanted things to be “better”.  He responded with something to the effect that our CD was “sonically more interesting.”  Rick didn’t bullshit you.  He didn’t try telling me that we wrote better songs or that we were equivalent musicians, but he was sincere in that he felt we were doing something interesting.  I always appreciated that honesty.

“The Every Growing Coalition of the Willing” was just another anti-war song written as the US made its way back into Iraq and Afghanistan.  Jim wrote a droning/rumbling bass riff, I stole some drum beat from a Lungfish song, Eric riffed over it and Jim screamed his head off (one of the few times that Jim took on lead vocal duties).  I was about to say this was probably the only time that we wrote a song over 5 minutes long, but it looks like we had another one (Confessions of an Amateur Vexhillologist) on the same record.  I think this is one of our songs that actually became, if I made use the phrase, “crowd favorite” (crowds were rare at HTML shows).

I still get to play music with Eric in our current band Preppers, but I miss getting to make music with Jim who still lives across the state.  Occasionally we throw around the idea of another HTML “reunion” show.  Not sure if there is any interest out there for seeing it happen, but I’d do it in a minute.  When is enough enough?  Apparently never for me.

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