A Man Who Was Here

by Greg Segal

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about

Recorded April 1985
new remaster, 3/18/14

"A Man Who Was Here" contains material written between 1981 and 1985, some of which was originally performed by my first band, Watcher. (This makes me about 17 when the earliest ones were written.)

In 1985 my tax return was large enough to allow me to go into an 8-track studio and record.

This is the only one of my albums to have been recorded in a regular studio. At the time, I was frustrated that after 5 years of writing and performing, I had no proper recordings, no record of these songs at all, besides some versions done by "multitrack" bouncing with 2 mono tape decks. I already knew the songs on enough instruments to make the album. I was annoyed to still be receiving unbelieving stares from people who couldn't imagine me pulling such a thing off. I had no proof of my capabilities, just claims.

Even though I was in the middle of recording Night Circus on 4-track with Kenny then, this was the one I was banking on to get picked up by a label. It had more commercial elements and, I assumed, would have better sound quality. I believed that not only would having master tapes in hand increase my chances, but I also thought that a hard, progressive-edged one man band album would be both impressive and welcome. My goal was to make the kind of record that could comfortably have been put out between 1968 and 1973. It was an easy goal to embrace, since that's the type of music I listened to and made! But I thought the pop aspect could reflect some of what I liked in more current music. I was going to craft the album's structure so that it flowed in a way that many of my favorite albums did- eclectic, challenging, textured. Despite the lack of such things on the radio or in the charts, it was my belief that there were a lot of others out there like myself who were starved for something like this, which had been so hugely popular only a short time ago. (What's 15 years to "classic" rock? Especially when every stoner you went to school still with listened to much of it.) Even so....there were elements of a more contemporary sound, a blend which, it seemed to me, could easily have worked. Then as now, I saw no reason for a wide range of styles and approaches to be bad news. In retrospect, I can't tell you if it was delusion, hubris, or just plain ignorance that made me think such a thing would be welcomed by any A&R person in the U.S. after 1973. I'd quit doing drugs on a daily basis years before, so I can't blame it on that. Regardless....

I set the date a few months in advance, and got to work figuring out track distribution for each song. I estimated how much time I would need, and decided to do a marathon recording session. The entire project was to be recorded in two ten hour sessions, two days in a row.

For a while I was afraid that I'd budgeted my time too tightly.

April 21st and 22nd, 1985: Clean Machine Studios, Canoga Park.

Upon arriving at the studio, which was in a very rowdy part of town, I noticed an awful stench coming from the carpet. Apparently there was a butcher shop next door. Earlier in the week, one of their freezers had failed.The meat defrosted, and a good amount of blood and water had seeped under the wall and flooded the studio floor. Combine this with a heat wave and the fact that the studio was one large, un-airconditioned room- not pleasant. I figured I could breathe through my mouth during the instrumental tracks, but when I was singing I'd have to deal with the stench. I was vaguely worried it would hamper my performance. I hoped that maybe I'd acclimate after a few hours and no longer be aware of it. That didn't happen. It stank all the way through. But whether it was will power, acceptance, or both, I don't think it weakened my performance. I'd become aware of it and push that much harder to do well.

Time to unload. Being my own roadie was not something I would (or could) do again. I was used to hauling around the guitar equipment, but in addition to that I had a full drum set, a bass, every electric guitar I owned, and a "portable" organ. Loading and unloading the car was rough, and if I hadn't been committed to the point of insanity, I wouldn't have done very well.

Once unloaded, I set the equipment up, at least partially. At some point during this, the engineer told me if I had my reels, he could start getting the machine ready. Say what? He had not brought tape. He'd expected me to do it. I realize that in many cases this is how it's done, but I'd specifically asked him to handle it, and he said he could, and that I would pay him when I arrived. Now he was being a pal and telling me where I could drive to get tape, who would still be open. I told him that wherever the tape was, he was driving. He didn't trust me alone in the studio with his equipment, and I didn't trust him with mine. So we drove together in his truck. This gave me a chance to calm down a bit and relax before recording.

During the drive, the engineer also informed me he would have to try to borrow a half-track mastering machine to mix down to; he hoped he could get it, but he wasn't sure. When I'd booked, we had agreed that the tape would be mixed there, and he'd said he was reasonably sure he'd be able to get a machine to mix down to. This is why I'd booked two more days immediately following recording. This had been about a week or so previous, and I assumed he'd take care of tracking one down before the session actually arrived. Silly me.

I had also expected he would have enough microphones for the drums. He had three, and insisted on getting a "live" sound. It may have worked, even worked well; but I wasn't pleased; he had promised what I'd expected, namely close miking for everything. We managed to rig something in between, which was satisfactory to neither of us. To this day I still find the drum sound inadequate. (Note, 3/19/14: it's pretty danged good now, I tell you what.)

The drum tracks were recorded the first night (except for the section after the guitar solo in "King of the Night"). If I recall correctly, the main vocal tracks were recorded the first night too. The other tracks were recorded the following night.

One more detail concerning annoyances, this one squarely on me: I left the lyrics at home and had to sing them from memory.

**********************************************************************************

As the previous reveals, I'd had enough time left over both days to record extra tracks that had either not been rehearsed (Life in Gameland) or were improvised or written in the studio (Middle America, Because You Lied). Everything else had been planned out or rehearsed quite thoroughly. There are improvised sections in some of the songs, and I allowed my ideas to change in the studio, but not at the risk of running out of time. Things were handled decisively.

There were good and bad points to recording this way. I found the pace completely exhilerating. I hate to be stopped when I'm creating something (creatus interruptus- BAD!!!), particularly when working alone and multi-tracking. It's easier (and necessary) to relax a little when recording with a band. But when working solo, I find any interruption of momentum to be borderline infuriating. (Necessary interruptions such as going to the bathroom, eating and changing reels or setting up sounds are excluded, as they are part of the work. Even so, it may take a while to get me there sometimes.) Having a patient and energetic engineer is essential. I may have had a number of complaints about the engineer's handling of the session, but where this was concerned, he was excellent. I ran a marathon and dragged him along and he kept up. Of course where my solo stuff is concerned, after this and Night Circus, I've been my own engineer. On the one hand that's a pain in the ass; on the other, I never have to argue, or fear slacking, subterfuge, or mutiny.

At the end of the 2nd and final night of recording, the engineer and I sat and listened as we dubbed a rough mix of the tapes onto cassette for me to take home and study. I felt very satisfied and was excited to begin mixing.

He told me he still hadn't found a half-track mastering machine to mix down to; he hoped he could get it, but he wasn't sure. I was not happy about this and asked that he figure something out. I packed up the gear, took my tapes, and he told me he'd call in the morning to let me know how things were going.

Next day, early morning passed; late morning crept in, and afternoon wasn't far off. I called; he claimed his wisdom teeth needed to be pulled. He gave me numbers of alternate studios and wished me a nice day. I wanted to strangle him, or at least do his dentistry without anasthesia. (I'm so much nicer now.)

I was working with limited time. I'd taken my vacation from a horrible factory job to do this. My schedule was apparently wrecked. I spent the next two days looking for a studio to mix down in. Finally I found one that was semi-satisfactory, and did what was to become the first mix. This was accomplished in about 8 hrs. It was originally intended to be done in two 5 hr. sessions, but on the way to the first session, I forgot my money and had to drive back home for it. (The studio was about 40 minutes away by car.) The owner/engineer refused to negotiate the time, and I paid for the full 5 hrs., though I only got in 3. We finished the the next day without a hitch. The engineer liked "If I Die Tomorrow" so much he kept a copy of it (with my permission). Given the way things had gone, I now regret this and wonder why I agreed to it at the time.

My approach to the first mix was to give the whole album a cohesive sound, which was a kind of a reverb-laden gloom, a big sound, full of mystery. In some ways I feel I succeeded, but not without some problems.

I made up lots of cassette copies and sent them to record labels, gave them to friends, to other musicians, to family. Nothing happened.

Between finishing "Night Circus", my work with Paper Bag, and dealing with my personal life, I was kept very busy after shifts at the factory.

As time passed, my dissatisfaction with the first mix grew. I felt as though I had rushed it and that my production style had masked and hidden some good playing. My suspicions were confirmed when I dug up the rough draft tape of the unmixed tracks, made right after finishing recording. There were lots of things I felt to be important that were too subtle or just plain inaudible on the first mix. I resolved to set the matter straight with a re-mix at the first available opportunity.

That opportunity came in 1987. I found another studio that fit my budget (but as it turned out, not my needs) and began to remix. Because of the moniter placement and my misjudgment of the result this would have on my ears, some of the remix was actually too tinny and high-end. It still lacked bass response, overall. To compensate for this, I eventually had Hyam Sosnow use his home system to remaster it with some extra punch, which helped a lot. Overall, I feel the re-mix had some superior qualities and I rate it higher than the '85 mix. This was the version used for the Pale series releases.

The current remaster uses the first pass from '87 (minus the Sosnow bass boost) as its jumping off point. I loaded it into my digital studio and was able to boost the bass in a more controlled way, and to use other tools to bring out a lot of subtleties. It is not the ideal remix/remaster I'd always wanted, from the original multi-tracks transferred to digital; but considering I was encountering oxide flaking from the tape in '87, I can only imagine what condition the masters might be in now. They could be fine; they could also, very easily, be ready to leave a flurry of brown particles all over someone's studio. At this point I don't know, but kind of doubt, that such a remix/remaster will ever take place. There's only so many times one may flog a particular old horse. I think this is it.

"A Man Who Was Here" was my first attempt at a multitrack album, and in many ways, it shows. The beginning of a learning curve is usually awkward. But I have never been anything but happy with having made the move to record it, and with having done it the way I thought it should be done. This was the first volley in my personal war for musical independence, and I never looked back.

credits

released March 19, 2014

All songs written and performed by Greg Segal

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Track Name: Nothing New
I heard the man on t.v. selling music for the brand new age
And thought about conformists who had built their fortunes out of rage
Their tongues of revolution stilled by treadmill time society
And fashion's creeping clutching hand threw shut the door and turned the key

You ain't saying anything new babe, somewhere you've said this before

You've got nothing to prove to me baby, just look around you some more...

I've heard the Disco Syndrums metamorphoseinto cracking whips
The dances change, the fashions change,exclusion stays, you're still too hip
A bunch of frightened people throwing water on a primal fire
Stifling by clinging in a crowd you mask your real desires

You ain't saying anything new babe, somewhere you've said this before.

You've got nothing to prove to me baby, I see exclusion galore.

And it's nothing new.
Track Name: Delusions
Who am I? Who am I?
Tell me who I am!
You thought you knew who I was last week
But that was all just a sham.

Delusions, delusions,
I really feel sorry for you.
Delusions, delusions,
Every day I can become someone new.

Your face was red two weeks ago
But now it's green and blue
I hung you from the balcony
And then I ran you through.

Delusions, delusions,
I really feel sorry for you.
Delusions, delusions,
Every day I can become someone new.

All the doctors said that I was insane
So I broke out and I took a new name.

Be yourself, they said.....
Be yourself, they said.....
Be yourselves.....
Track Name: If I Die Tomorrow
Morning
The sun warms my skin
And it makes me feel
Like I could throw it all away again.

Warm wind in my hair
A fresh breeze in the air
But it's not there for me to enjoy
So I just can't care

If I die tomorrow
Don't you cry for me
Take the day off and sit in the sun
And laugh because I'm free.

Evening
Too many memories come at night.
No one to share them with
No one to touch

The room rings with silence
Past achievements gather dust
So many self-inscribed trophies...
What do they matter?

If I die tomorrow
Don't you cry for me
Take the day off and sit in the sun
And laugh because I'm free.

Freedom
You know it's all I want
Just to exist
Take some time to enjoy life

It's too bad that man must be machinery
Whose only purpose is to oil itself
Man is not perpetual motion
And machines never cry.....

Sometimes it's so damned hard to see
Just what's left around here to be.
The sun still shines, maybe an answer's there.....
Kind of find it hard to care.....

All the things I'll never see

All the things I'll never know

All the things I'll never be

All the things I'll never show

But these are speculations and as such, useless
And failure's just a state of mind, right?

But if I die tomorrow,
Don't you cry for me
Take the day off and sit in the sun
And laugh because I'm free.
Track Name: Please Say You'll Stay
There's a myriad of faces underneath this single skin
And I've seen a thousand places
that I know I've never been

Look deeply in my eyes, babe,
and you'll know that I'm for real
I've got wounds that stretch a thousand years
and I need your love to heal

'Cause when the song is sung and the notes die away
Nothing's left for me now
Can you hear what I say?

I live my life the normal way
But every night I dream
Outside I am a young man
Things are seldom what they seem

I dream of things forgotten
And I dream of things I've known
I dream of empty cities
And the years I spent alone

But when the song is sung and the notes die away
Nothing's left for me now
Will you please say you'll stay?

More than crowds are fading, babe,
That's why I'm standing now
We stand to lose more than we've got
Let's win it back somehow
Track Name: Life In Gameland
A youth misspent by not joining the crowd
Refuse to play games and you're not allowed

But that's how it goes
Yeah that's how it goes
Oh that's how it goes
That's life in gameland

Learn for yourself? Why what do you mean?
Don't you know that we need you to feed our machines?

But that's how it goes
Yeah that's how it goes
Oh that's how it goes
That's life in gameland

We'll make sure your head is made out of wood
And we'll make you dig ditches like itinerants should

Or we'll turn you into pigeons
that can walk a figure-eight
We'll control all your emotions,
tell you what to love or hate and it's a

Blissful existence if you just play along
We'll have your mind to build on if you just play along
We'll waste your whole life for you if you
just play along

Please let us waste your time
Please let us waste your mind

Please
Please
Please.....

A youth misspent by not joining the crowd
Refuse to play games and you're not allowed

But that's how it goes
Yeah that's how it goes
Oh that's how it goes
That's life in gameland
Track Name: I Played In The Dirt
Mommy took me to the hospital again today,
They gave me more of that medicine.
It makes your hair fall out.
The kids at school all laughed at me because I was bald

But all I did was play in the dirt,
That's really all I did
I just played in the dirt,
That's really all I did.

Daddy says it's 'cause of that big building that's next to the school.
They threw stuff in the ground that hurts people.
The doctor says I'm gonna die. I'll miss mom and dad
It makes me cry

'Cause all I did was play in the dirt
That's really all I did
I just played in the dirt
That's really all I did.

There's lots of kids in the hospital.
They're gonna die like me.
Some of them drank nasty water,
And some of them were born that way.

Some of them say that they're not scared,
But I hear them cry at night.
I wish I knew what I did wrong
So it could be all right

All I did was play in the dirt
That's really all I did
I just played in the dirt
That's really all I did

And I'll never, never, never do it again.
Track Name: So Far
I saw you just the other day
and you said that you were doing fine
You couldn't pay the rent, you said,
It's too expensive when you're doing lines

And then you couldn't get to sleep
so you had to buy some downs
The world's not made for having fun,
Maybe it's better in some other town

Maybe someday soon we'll see the life we used to know
I think of you and think about how far we have to go

Saw fearless leader on the tube
and as usual his news was bad
The children of the USA
won't have a richer life than Mom and Dad

The standard of living's sinking fast
and the past is dead and gone
And half my paycheck builds your bombs
and cuts the White House lawn

Maybe someday soon we'll see the life we used to know
I think of you and think about how far we have to go

I sit up late at night
and wonder what the hell I'll do
'Cause all the fears and doubts all seem
to be coming true.....

I saw you just the other day
and I said that I was doing fine
I couldn't look you in the eyes
'cause I was handing you the same old line

Can't find a job, can't find a girl,
and there's so much that I don't know
And I don't know where I'm going to,
is there anyplace to go?

Maybe some day soon we'll see the life we used to know
I think of you and think about how far we have to go
I think of me and think about
How far we have to go.
Track Name: King Of Illusion
I am the truth in every lie
I am the laugh in every cry
I am the black in all blue skies
I am the dead that never dies

King of illusion
A perfect conflict
Subtle
Which is illusion
Which is reality?

Searching for answers near and far
Gazing beyond the distant stars
Seeing only what is right there
Ignoring truth, answers everywhere

King of illusion
A perfect conflict
Subtle
Which is illusion
Which is reality?

All is one and one is all.
Track Name: King Of The Night
You say you don't want me hanging around
Your friends think I'm strange and get scared
You say you don't want me sharing your ground
I was stupid to think that you cared

But one day babe, that sun will go down
And darkness will steal you from sight
And when that dark comes, give up hope, give up all
'Cause I will be king of the night

I sit in this room staring at the four walls
And I see your face form on the ceiling
The walls, closing in, seem to scream I can't win
They've forgotten with who they are dealing

One day, babe, that sun will go down
And darkness will steal you from sight
And when that dark comes, give up hope, give up all,
'Cause I will be king of the night

Thinking about how I tried hard to love you
Watching the world laughing right in my face
For now I'm the ground, but the sky up above you
Changes in hue to bring me to my place
Track Name: A Man Who Was Here
Do not think you are forgotten
Though I quickly slip away

I am of a drifting nature
Too uncomfortable too stay

And it has nothing to do with you
There's no reason for that fear

Time will show me as a shadow seeking darkness
Just a man who was here

All these people I have passed by
Will never know what I have learned
Better that they never find out
See themselves as bridges burned

Yet I love them still and always
And their memories are near
But they hold me as an undesirable leecher
Maybe sometimes shed a tear

And even those who really know me
Can only see what I will show
A different side, a different nature
A changeling everywhere I go

For only I can hold my secrets
Absorbed from life and death and fear

Time will show me as a shadow seeking darkness
Just a man who was here

Visions of mind
Of space and time
Of lies and pain
and bedsheet stains

Emotions and how they are kicked to death
Of love and sleeping lover's breath
All the experience a life can give
These I will know, these I must live

Do not think you are forgotten
Though I quickly slip away
I am of a drifting nature
Too uncomfortable to stay

For only I can hold my secrets
Absorbed from life and death and fear

Time will know me as a shadow finding darkness
Just a man who was here