As I mentioned in my last blog post, I had lots of fun early this year writing songs inspired by ‘fan’ pictures.
(‘Fan’ – is that the right word? Seems a bit pretentious to declare people my fans. Listeners anyway. People I know online.)
Lots were shared, and quite a few ended up as finished songs with at least a demo recorded, if not a final version.
I Have A Mask is one of the songs that has so far got to the demo stage. But I like it, so it will likely turn up as a finished song at some point. Here’s the demo:
The song was inspired by this picture of a menu, shared by a guy named Randy. I don’t know what the artist who originally created it intended, but to me that is downright creepy. It isn’t a mask, but it made me think of masks, and that’s how I got to the idea of the song.
I have a mask,
And on that mask I placed a smile,
And with that smile I stole some friends.
To begin with, you might be forgiven for thinking the mask is metaphorical. The narrator is singing about faking his way through friends, family, the whole of his life. But as things progress his starts talking about removing the mask and looking to the sky, about finding some other poor bastard to put under the mask and force to live his life. It could be read differently, but to me there is no metaphor here. Whoever this creature is, he has literally lived a life under a mask, disguised as human when he is anything but.
In scifi there are rarely metaphors. If something weird is described, the author probably means it literally.
Music nerd stuff
I mentioned songwriting shortcuts in the last post. Well this one uses a shortcut in the lyrics that I’ve used variations of several times – I’m building up a list. In the example above I’ve got a mask, and on the mask a smile, and with the smile I stole some friends. On an early album I did something similar with a song called What the Orderly Saw.
I pushed the trolley that shot me dead,
I pushed the trolley that carried the corpse that shot me dead,
I pushed the trolley that carried the corpse the doctor cut that brain out of, that shot me dead.
Why would I do this? Cos it both sounds cool and makes the next line easier to write, cos you know how it starts already!
Harmonically the first half of the song is pretty simple. It’s based around Am and F, with a Dm and E turning up in the chorus too. It’s in 7/8 and started life as that ostinato riff you can hear in the guitar. The bassline is simply descending the A harmonic minor scale.
The second half of the song takes us on a little journey, changing key a couple of times as our narrator gets a bit more introspective. But it’s the same sort of chords each time, descending in thirds. And at the end we return to the same opening Am and F chords.
Why change key? It can be a bit cheesy, changing key in a vocal piece, but this one’s telling a story and has a little hint of musical theatre, so it seemed a reasonable thing to do. Maybe a bit of cheese is what it needed. So we go from Am to Dm, and then Cm before returning to the Am figure from the opening. That also leads to a high note in the vocal that I do not get right in the demo. But it’s a demo, so who cares. I’ll get it right in the final version. That, or re-write it so I don’t have to sing so high. One of the two.
Changing key was also another little shortcut. The story was giving us new information, taking us on a bit of a journey, so they key changes reflect that.
The other thing I like about this song is the ‘oh-ho-oh’ vocal hook, which really works imho.
This song was the first I wrote for February album writing month 2021, so it had to get written and recorded pretty quickly. I think I had it done in a day. Getting the final version recorded will happen later this year. Maybe.
A song I’m proud of, and it wouldn’t exist without Randy sharing that picture. Thanks, Randy!