[A note for LaFosse listeners: half-pint demigod is now in-stock and available for ordering in advance of its “official” December 6th release date; for those unfamiliar with Yogi’s music, half-pint demigod and Any Raw Flesh?, the original album it was built from, are available as a specially-priced pair from Wonky Records. Below is the official press release; I’ll post my own personal comments on the album in a future entry.]
half-pint demigod is a collaboration between two artists who have never worked together. Performed by musicians who didn’t listen to any of the material until months after they recorded their parts. Produced by a guitarist who didn’t play a single note on the album, and didn’t have anything to do with recording the material. And written by a songwriter who didn’t hear any of the music until the album was already done.
In this corner: Shawn “Yogi” Farley, a singer/songwriter/guitarist who has built a rabid cult following by defiantly releasing albums of melodic-yet-intricate hard rock songs. Yogi’s music is made up of equal parts pop-song brain and hard-rock brawn, flaunting instrumental virtuosity, catchy vocal melodies, and elaborate live band arrangements. His debut album Any Raw Flesh? was a surprise breakout hit amongst a largely online fanbase; made piecemeal over three years in small independent studios, and released independently, it won near-unanimous praise from fans and critics alike – Guitar Player magazine observed that Any Raw Flesh? contained “… a truckload of inventive music.”
In that corner: Andre LaFosse, an instrumental guitarist, producer, and chronic desconstructionist. His obsessive experiments with gene-splicing the seemingly disparate worlds of instrumental musicianship and post-DJ thought have won him acclaim, controversy, and more than a few puzzled looks from his listeners. His iconoclastic first CD, Disruption Theory, juxtaposed live electric guitar against intricate electronic programming, and was greeted with both serious critical praise and serious commercial obscurity.
Farley and LaFosse crossed paths and bonded over a shared cultural lineage of ’80s heavy metal, “Star Wars,” comic books, Internet message boards, and white male American myopia. It was probably inevitable that they’d try to collaborate in some way; it was probably impossible that either of them could imagine how complicated the ensuing project would become, and how utterly unusual the musical result would be.
It all started innocently enough: Yogi invited Andre to produce remixes of the material from Any Raw Flesh?. Quickly sensing the possibility to snatch a difficult defeat from the jaws of easy victory, Andre proposed taking this familiar concept for a highly esoteric spin: he decided that the only sounds he would use in his remixes would be the actual musical performances which were recorded for the original versions of those songs, during the making of Any Raw Flesh?
There would be no drum machines, no synthesizers, no outside samples of other artists, and no new instrumental performances by Andre, Yogi, or anyone else. Shawn, a Seattle resident, would mail the original live band performances from four of the songs from Any Raw Flesh? to Andre as computer files on dozens of CD-Rs. Andre would then put these performances through the digital ringer on his computer in Los Angeles – editing the tracks into new shapes, cross-pollinating and combining performances from all four different songs into new pieces, warping the original performances beyond recognition, and re-constituting them as new material.
Sometimes the recorded performances of Any Raw Flesh? drummer Chris G were chopped up, filtered, and tweaked so that they sounded like breakbeats sampled from an old vinyl record, or were rigidly edited to resemble an ancient drum machine. Sometimes Yogi’s guitar parts would be cut-and-pasted, like sentence fragments in a word processing program, so that completely new riffs and songs were fashioned from scraps of the old ones. Sometimes two different bass lines from two completely different songs would end up playing at the same time in a new remix. One of the four songs Andre requested files for ended up containing a few lines of hidden vocals, which were turned into lead vocal parts for two versions of a “new” song.
During all of this, the only time Farley and LaFosse spent together in person was a couple of hours in a movie theater at the very beginning of the project, watching the film “Memento;” Andre ended up basing one of the remixes around the structure of that film.
After many months, countless CD-Rs, a few novels’ worth of emails, and a seriously swollen hard drive, half-pint demigod emerged, at a whopping 11 tracks and 74 minutes, as what may be the single most conceptually overloaded – and least efficiently produced – remix album ever created. It sounded very little like Yogi’s original songs, even though obvious traces of his music had been carefully woven throughout the entire album, as easter eggs to reward the attentive Any Raw Flesh? fan. It also bore little resemblance to the jungle/guitar gene-splice of Disruption Theory, although it shared some of that record’s aesthetic sensibilities (and a lot of its art-school pretentions).
Running orders were compiled, mastering sessions were booked, audio commentaries were recorded, preview MP3’s were uploaded…
…and then half-pint demigod was put on the shelf, unreleased, where it sat for three years, while the two core artists behind it resumed their lives.
Shawn went on to release additional CDs of his melodic rock songs, and continued to grow his following. Andre got tired of making music by pointing and clicking a mouse, started playing live solo gigs with a guitar and a digital Echoplex, and went on to make a second solo album called Normalized, which sounded very little like either Disruption Theory or half-pint demigod.
But the abandoned, psychologically-burdened, red-headed stepchild of this musical odd couple was never forgotten, and half-pint demigod is finally being given the chance to see – and be seen by – the outside world. Stuck halfway between solo album and collaboration, existing as equal parts art statement and party soundtrack, it raises a number of questions: What does the album “mean” for each artist at this point in their respective careers? How will it be heard by their respective audiences, or by those unfamiliar with either Yogi or Andre?
And for that matter, will it be even be heard at all?
half-pint demigod, the music of Shawn “Yogi” Farley remixed by Andre LaFosse, is released December 6, 2005 on Wonky Records. http://www.wonky.net