In May of 2018, I began sketching out the rough concept for a new Old Fat God album. This would be the first true full-length OFG record since 2008’s nihilistic death-trip The Minotaur, utilizing the existing pallet of extended tones and collaged samples to make a soundscape harkening to an imagined peyote nightmare in the most atomic Nevada wastes (in retrospect, I think I just wanted to combine Califone’s Deceleration 1 and Jonathan Bepler’s soundtrack to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 2). It didn’t take long, though, for my efforts to veer dizzyingly off-course. All the new compositions were much too structural, too formal, too much like actual songs. Obviously, all my years of geeking over John Zorn and JG Thirlwell had impacted how riffs came together in my head and in my hands. Also: I am no good at playing slide acoustic, so that basically killed any western vibe.
So what was I to do with these skeletons of songs that didn’t fit my concept and, in all honesty, were beyond my abilities to perform?
Well, while recording Scott Sell’s debut album In the Mines that previous January, I was introduced to some “friends” of his from the New Haven area, a group of skeazy, malnourished rejects who work the New England crust-punk jazz scene as The b.l.a.c.k. Lodge Brass Band. Each one of these scumbags played at least three different types of instrument, from oboe to cello to penny whistle to trombone. Each one made my cat very skittish. Each one smelled kinda like meat. In the day or two they session’d with us, I don’t think they altogether said more than five words. But their arrangements for Scott’s songs were instantaneous and spot-on (and, perhaps best of all from my point-of-view as producer, they knew how to mic their instruments, nearly none of which I’d ever tried to record before). Even if they were a bunch of creeps, I was in love.
By September, having recognized the failure of my immediate goal while simultaneously fostering a musicological crush on some horn-blowing fugs, I reached out to the band’s defacto leader, Dead Charlie, and soon after began emailing him scans of my “scores.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting in response. But a series of beautifully recorded renditions of the songs was certainly not it.
After hearing the first set of five or six tracks, I began communicating more earnestly with Dead Charlie (because of a unique throat injury sustained during his death metal days in the mid-90s, one doesn’t really “talk” to Dead Charlie) about the arrangements while also composing new material. Over the course of the following winter and spring, we put together a complete set of fifteen new songs. I was not present for a single recording session. Aside from a few additional electronic flourishes and constant feckless nitpickery with the mixes, I had nothing to do with creating the sounds on this album.
In certain abstract ways, these songs continue (and possibly complete) the haphazard narrative connecting each Old Fat God record to the others. The doomed lovers. The faithless Father. The merciless self-flagellation. The honeyed light over the Park of Shoals. The unnamed heroine undestroyed by death. I have no idea if there’s anything more to add to this abstract story I’ve been kinda sorta not really telling for nearly twenty years. But if this is the end, I feel pretty okay with where this story at last has come.
releases September 7, 2019
Composed by Douglas W. Milliken.
Arranged by Douglas W. Milliken and Dead Charlie.
Performed by The b.l.a.c.k. Lodge Brass Band and Old Fat God.