THE MARTINI SHOT
So here we are, it looks as if our adventure is coming to a close. The horizon we have been aiming for is slowly turning into our present landscape, and we are almost home. But… not without the final push, the last few steps that will really test the will, break sweat, draw blood and tears of pain and joy. There is light ahead and we think back one last time to all we have seen and done, before putting our head down and never looking back. Like the story arc of The Hero’s Journey, observed and detailed by Joseph Campbell, we have been called to an adventure and given a quest, a charge, to save someone, be it a loved one, a stranger, a kingdom, a community, an idea or ourselves… and we have left our comfortable existence, our ordinary world, and braved the wilderness to seek this truth, to defeat whatever it was sought to destroy, and through the wilderness we braved many adventures, many dangers, and have bested them all. And we found the treasure, the truth, the answer, the cure, the grail… and now, we must turn back and bring it home. And in many ways, this can be the most challenging part.
The title of this song, The Martini Shot, is a term borrowed from the film-making world. For a brief while in the early 2000s I studied film on my own and under an apprenticeship program in New York, where I worked as a production assistant for several low-budget films, videos, and commercials. It was an amazing time. The Martini Shot is a term used to define the final shot set-up of the day or of a projects entire production. The joke is that the next shot will “be out of a glass”, referring to the post-wrap drink.
I mentioned this song in one of my first posts detailing the writing and recording of “Lush”. In this post I described the origins of that song and this one. This song was written in the early 2000s as well, when I was playing in the band Maximum Angel with Scott Wardell (or guitar, recording, production), his brother James (on drums), our friend Jason DeCaestecker (on guitar), and Rico Rivera (on Congas). I wrote the two songs as a two-part segue type of composition. At the time, Lush was just a prototype (as it turns out), but this song, The Martini Shot, we really had figured out. We never really got around to recording it properly, but we did mange to get a demo recording, which I used as a template to record this song.
When I was recording this record, I decided to split the two songs, to sort of bookend the record with them. When decided to record an album so many years ago, I had to also pick and choose from a vast arsenal of ideas and forms which songs to focus on and get into digital form. I had been messing around with “Lush” ever since the group had disbanded, gradually giving it form, a little addition here, an little reduction there, over a period of about 4 or 5 years, and it was feeling ready to be born… and it was a no-brainer since it was basically completed form-wise and was the sibling of Lush. I had felt like if I was going to really undertake a serious album, I might as well start where I left off in my last serious musical endeavor, especially since we never really recorded them. The previous recording I had made was more or less an experiment (with songs from the Maximum Angel era as well as songs newer and older), but it was only five songs and not a completely formed album by any traditional or artistic definition. And with this decision to record them, this prompted me to record and collect other songs that fit the theme, the result being this record.
This song is an oddball for me. It’s pretty short by my usual standards. And it’s an oddly-timed song, which I made even more odd by placing the lyrics where I did. The song was written on the keyboard, and is kind of a jazz vamp with a heavy rock sort of chorus and ending. The main part, the verses, is in 6/8, eight bars, and after the 8 bars, is one bar of 7/8 (“It’s a long way home”, the lyric at the end of each verse part). The chorus is in 11/8 (“It’s a long way home” repeated 4 times, then into a 10/8 riff, (with an extra beat between the two parts) where things get kind of heavy, to the end of the chorus. It’s really kind of all over the place upon first glance, but it’s well though out and just an odd arrangement, but it makes sense when you hear it a few times.
James had such a fantastic and gloriously quirky drum beat written for this song, something so well written and thought out, I found it impossible and unnecessary to consider any other kind of beat for it. I matched his drum beat hit for hit using midi-drum in Logic (you can read a more detailed explanation of this process in the post for “Lush”, if you haven’t already, and are interested). He is really good at working out those odd times. He and Scott would often write really mathy kind of music, so this was a fun challenge for him at the time. My only regret was not having the time to get him to re-record the track (at least that’s the pressure I was putting on myself to get this finished, and in the end, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference time-wise to have had him on it.)
It made sense to put this song as the last song on the album because, thematically, the song is about the return home after a long journey. And musically it has this really powerful ending, really tense, like the storied final push I described above. The perfect climactic ending to a really amazing story. When I had written it years ago, I didn’t have words for it, but as I recorded this, I began to see the meaning behind the music. And what I was hearing, and what I decided to do was make the very ending this incredibly big operatic supernova. There is a sort of call and response thing going on, with the words between the two “parties” playing off of each other, and building up as they go. It felt like something from a really dark Amadeus opera, not that I know anything about opera, and maybe someone better educated about the genre could more aptly place my analogy. Maybe something like Carmin Burana, but something with lots of gravitas, tension, and a tug-of-war between glory and damnation.
And that’s pretty much what it’s all about. If this album is conceptually about a string of adventures, or an anthology of them, perhaps tied together in some abstract way, then it would make sense to have a grand finale. That quick look back, amazed at all that has happened and how it changed you, and how it may change you further when you return to the homeland, now with a new perspective. And what it may take to leave, the temptation to stay, if the experience was good… Or the exhausting effort to look ahead and see all that you went through to get there only to have to double your efforts to go through it again (If the experience was less than good). To see the road home, as tired as you are, from either positive or negative experiences, and take the first step with the only inspiration being the longing to feel the comfort of home once again. The return to The Shire.
Sometimes the full spectrum of experience and change and enjoyment of the adventure does not reveal itself until you are back to your familiar territories and habits. Only upon reflection can we see how far we have really come, how much we have won or lost.
And in the end, we might want more, to take the ride again. Or maybe something was left just out of reach, a path left unexplored, tucked in your back pocket for later evaluation, the next time around. I left this bit of curiosity in there, in a nod to the television series cliffhanger trope, with the phrase, “But before we say goodnight, we want to leave you with a song so you can find us… Until next time… ???”
And there it ends, with the question mark strategically placed. What will happen next? Where will our next adventure take us, and what shape will it take? These are the questions I want to leave unanswered. There is much more to come. Tune in next time to find out.
Until Next Time…
p.s.: Thank you all for reading. I hope to be writing some more soon, so please check back and "like" on Facebook, and all that stuff. Cheers!