Friday, January 21, 2005


Police helicopter
Your wonderful searchlight
You lull me to sleep at night
I can't sleep without you

By grace of your bass response
By grace of adrenaline
I'll fall flat upon my face
To fireworks and soaring strings

This is the first verse of our song Molotov, which will hopefully be making an appearance on the album.

The lyrics were written in a flat I used to live in located slap bang on one of Bristol's busier arterial roads. The regular presence of a police helicopter wafting around directly above our house was surprisingly calming (I've always found it easier to sleep with some sort of white noise burbling away in the background) and I was fascinated by its contradictory aspects: a weapon of oppression, a measure of security, a public nuisance, a watchful presence, a horrible racket or a lovely, shifting droning vibe high above your home... all of this inspired the song.

Mrs Rorschach and I have now moved to the centre of Bristol, which means - if anything - more police helicopter action. But tonight when I heard the slow buzz overhead, with the album in mind I grabbed my minidisc and started recording it.

I wandered around from room to room, headphones on, mic in hand, trying to find the "sweet spot" where the tones of the helicopter would sound best. I needed a solid, set location to get the full effect of its shifting position overhead; what interested me was the way the drone fluctuated as it crept from window to window. But at every point I was frustrated by my flat. I switched the central heating off to stop clicks and rumbles from the boiler, but that still didn't do it. I couldn't move too much because the fantastically sensitive microphone was picking up little 'tic-tic-tic's from the burglar alarm's infra-red detectors. If I opened the windows, traffic noise spoiled the effect. I could hear the TV in the flat upstairs (almost impossible with the naked ear...) but persisted, trying to record something usable.

And suddenly, after about 20 minutes, I thought: What the fuck am I doing? What is this going to be used for? I'm not making a fucking Pink Floyd album. I don't want a song that mentions helicopters to actually have a fucking helicopter on it. What was I thinking? Is this going to be a po-faced version of Yellow Submarine? Put the minidisc down and make a cup of tea, dammit.

Hey, I thought, the kettle sounds really interesting mixed with the sound of the helic-
STOP IT. Stop. Ferfucksake.

Does The Pixies' Monkey Gone To Heaven have the sound of a monkey in it? No.
Does Bjork's The Anchor Song have the sound of an anchor? No.
Does Tom Waits' Downtown Trains have the sound of a train, downtown or otherwise? No.
Does The Velvet Underground's I'm Waiting For The Man have the sound of a man? Yes, but that doesn't count.
Does Aphex Twin's Kladfvgbungmicshk have the sound of a kladfvgbungmicshk? Pffff. If you need to ask, you oughtn't to be told.

Failure - and how you handle it, what you do when it strikes - has always been a key focus of my creative process. I'm fascinated by the results that out-and-out mistakes (or sheer incompetence, for that matter) can get you. "Fail again. Fail better."

So tonight I came to the conclusion that the last thing I want is for Molotov to sound literal, to turn it into some sort of stomping, antagonistic dirge. Somewhere in our sketches and arrangements there is an insistent, sharp, graceful edge to the song and we need to push that into the foreground.
Or die trying. Whichever.

An interesting failure link for y'all:


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