I worked on “Infernal Medicine” when I got home. I still just had fragments of lyrics–I’d crossed out far more than I’d left on the page. That was normal for me. But I started playing around with the sound of it, trying to get the aural equivalent of something deceptively sweet with a razor blade hidden in it. I ended up in the basement with my beat-up old four-track, dubbing one track with the Strat and one with the Ovation, then scrapping the Ovation in favor of the orphan Yamaha we’d unearthed.
From time to time the melody I was working on knocked loose some words and I’d write them down. Maybe it was something about having gotten laid that morning, or maybe it was that I’d finally called Ziggy on some of his bullshit, but what I was writing was coming out far more blatant than what I usually did. And I didn’t like blatant. Blatant in my mind equated to cheap or to cliche. I figured I’d work on it more later, though. If I could get the basic concepts hammered out, I could go back and play with word choice and make it more obscure if I needed to. And the concept was basic enough.
I was staring at three rough verses when Colin stuck his head downstairs.
Nothing tempts me like your lips
Lush as honey and twice as sweet
Your skin slips under my fingertips
As silvery cool as a satin sheet
Nothing tempts me like your kiss
It isn’t money that stirs my greed
My pain is gone in the taste of bliss
But the more I get the more I need
Nothing tempts me like your hiss
Like a needle you sink your teeth
Venom in the nectar, the poisoned lotus
What cures me kills me underneath
I crossed out the words “venom” and “lotus.” Venom wasn’t quite the right word, and lotus didn’t quite scan or rhyme, although it might if the melody worked out right…
“Hey,” Colin said, “are you down here by yourself?”
“Just me and me.” I stood and stretched. “And me.” I pointed to the three guitars. “Which is plenty.”
“I’m curious if you ever tried using a computer as accompaniment. When you’re writing.” He sat down on the stairs.
“You mean like using Performer? I did a composition course in a computer lab one semester.” I yawned and wondered what time it was.
“If you haven’t used it in a couple of years, Performer’s gotten a lot better,” Colin said. “And Macs have gotten a lot faster, too. What were you using, a MacPlus?”
“Er, maybe? Most of the setups were all that beige box with the built in screen. The lab had something like 20 computers and 20 Yamaha DX-7 IIs, paired up.” I shrugged. “It was a joint class with Brown. They had some kind of grad program in computer music starting or something like that.” I hadn’t thought about that class in a long time. I remembered mostly being frustrated that I wasn’t a better keyboard player and that held me back. But I still had tapes of the songs somewhere…
Colin was still talking. “I should show you what I’ve got going on with the one in my room. Seriously. We don’t have the processing power yet, or the disk space, but in another four or five years, you’re not just going to see studio recording going 100% all digital, but home recording, too. It’s going to be kind of awesome. Once it becomes affordable, that is.”
I picked up my notebook and shut off the four track. I popped the tape out and took it with me as we went up the stairs. “You know, it occurs to me that what’s affordable has kind of changed in my mind.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“I mean, once upon a time I decided the DX-7 was too expensive.” We started up the second flight of stairs. “So I bought the Yamaha FB-01 sound generator instead, used, and hooked it up to the absolute cheapest MIDI keyboard I could get secondhand. Some Casio thing. A CZ-1, I think…” I’d sold the keyboard before leaving Providence, hadn’t I? No, wait, I sold it to a neighbor when I lived in the Fenway. “So, what time is it?”
“It’s like… nine?”
I had a sudden surge of adrenaline as I remembered Jonathan. But it was a kind of pleasant surge, in a way. Except for the part where I was going to be late if I didn’t get a move on. “Shit, I better take a rain check on the computer lesson, Col’.”
“Why, got a hot date?”
As a matter of fact… Nah, couldn’t bring myself to say it. “Rumor has it Treat Her Right is playing a surprise show at Venus deMilo tonight. I better get my ass down there if I don’t want to miss it.”
“At Venus? That’s kind of a weird venue for that.”
“That’s what I thought. But it’s bigger than the Rat, and there must already be something else at Axis…? I dunno. I’ve got it on good authority, though.” Jonathan’s sources were pretty solid, I’d say.
“Well, shit, mind if I come along?”
Uh, what to say, what to say? I thought I handled it pretty smoothly. “Want to share a cab over? I can’t promise I’m making it back here tonight, though. I’m gonna grab a quick shower.”
“Party animal,” he said with a laugh as I pushed past him with a nod to go into the bathroom.
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