Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Jesus Freaks" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Robert C. Goetz)

Etching by Robert C. Goetz. Provisional title
supplied by blogger: "Like a man lost on a beach."

This is an image of an etching that Robert C. Goetz made in St. Louis at the time he was scoring poetry by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake for the inaugural Poetry Scores Hawai'i project, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki.

"Somehow, scoring Hawaiian poetry translated into this image from a stark and domesticated vantage point," Robert notes. "A Midwestern interpretation -- potted banana plant, me in underwear with guitar. A scant amount of clothing, my typical setup when sketching out songs, like a lost man on the beach. There's an ocean of possibility and the hard way of getting anywhere."

I had included Robert in the songwriting process for the Westlake poetry score before Wayne's friend and editor, Richard Hamasaki, took over the Westlake project as executive producer. Robert ended up sharing with Richard demos for three songs he had scored from Westlake's Waikiki sequence, "Jesus Freaks," "Lost" and "Out of Mind," and it was "Jesus Freaks" that made it off the cutting floor.

"It was my most scant score of Wayne Westlake's Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki material," Goetz notes. "It had three chords and a blues progression. I tracked vocal and guitar through one mic and made no effort to add key or tempo change. It's all feeling. I literally read Wayne's poem and strummed chords over it twice and then pressed 'record.' I erased the first take and kept the second."

Richard Hamasaki is an inventive and experienced producer of what he calls Amplified Poetry. From his home base on Oahu, he helped to guide Robert's score of "Jesus Freaks" that he was finishing in St. Louis.

"Months went by, and I maintained an email thread with Richard Hamasaki, about finalizing the song," Robert notes. "Richard asked me to separate guitar and vocal, so I tracked them separately. The album cut is my first guitar take, and first and second vocal takes. The second vocal was done while enjoying some Argentine Malbec. I took the next day off from work and added drums. Drums took 7 takes."

Now that Richard could hear more of what was going on, he could hear more of what he wanted to hear.

"There's a big jump that happens to the sound after I submit my isolated track demo to Richard," Robert notes. "We email back and forth about other instrumentation, and it's quickly resolved that I ask Adam Long to help with cello, production and mixing. Richard is also intrigued by my suggestion of Mark Buckheit's lap steel. Richard tells me that steel guitar is a Hawaiian tradition."

With Adam Long and Mark Buckheit's assistance, Robert completed a brilliant score to "Jesus Freaks" by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake.

free mp3

(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Robert C. Goetz)

Performed by Robert C. Goetz
Vocals, acoustic guitar, drums: Robert C. Goetz
Cello: Adam Long
Electric Lap Steel Guitar: Mark Buckheit
Recorded, mixed and produced: Adam Long and Robert C. Goetz
Executive production: Richard Hamasaki

Robert adds a footnote about our friend Hunter Brumfield III:

Hunter story ...

Drums took 7 takes because drums are the hardest when you track them last. I remember Hunter tracking drums and insisting on recording them first, before anything.

One evening long ago I caught Hunter in the parking lot of the Schnucks on Arsenal. He was buying beer for a recording session happening off a South Grand side street. We shook hands, and he asked if I wanted to maybe add some guitar or something to a new batch of songs.

The first thing he did when we got to the studio was pop a beer and get behind the kit. Engineer pressed record, drums got tracked, we popped another beer while Hunter laid down guitar. We had another beer while Hunter did vocal.

Years later, I understand the one-man-band approach through watching Hunter. Drums after guitar is almost impossible, because rhythm is everything and you find yourself chasing the song rather than propelling it.

While tracking drums for "Jesus Freaks," I chased it. If you listen, "Jesus Freaks" skips, but by the skin of my teeth.


Robert and I were playing with Hunter Brumfield in the Poetry Scores house band Three Fried Men at the time Hunter killed himself. I'd like to say we consider Hunter's suicide an aberration and entertain the notion that our collaboration with him continues. As Bernard Leach said after his pottery colleague Soetsu Yanagi died, "Yanagi is gone but the friendship has deepened."



George Washington's Birthday - At Honolulu Zoo" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Judge Nothing)

Wayne Kaumualii Westlake
Photo by Mark Hamasaki

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