Released: 27 November, 2017.
DK UPC: 192378350686
Wow. Raving Masses. That was a long, long time ago, or so it feels. But this first album marked the start of my journey as The Lowest of Low. I can confess now that I had pretty much no idea what I was doing -- no idea of the "business" side of creating music, anyway -- promotion, online presence, any of that. My understanding of the subtleties of mixing was pretty minimal at this time as well.
But this is how it all came about.
Up until this point, I had been writing orchestral music. My partner's 15-year-old kid brother (half brother, related through their mother) came for a visit to us here in Sicily, and seemed to be quite interested in this strange "hobby" of mine. I was "pursuing music" in my spare time between piece-work jobs ghost-writing and translating for a Japanese firm engaged in providing (in my case) Japan-related original content in English, and quality English translations of Japanese content -- website articles, restaurant menus, travel blogs, news app write-ups, that kind of thing. A lot of exacting work for diminishing returns.
Hot on the heels of a (self-invited) visit from my de-facto mother-in-law, I'd been working on a symphony that expressed the pretty dreadful experience of having a full-blown narcissist, hell-bent on causing as many problems as possible, to stay in my home as a guest. Strange (and deeply Sicilian) being that I am, I take hospitality very seriously, no matter what personality disorders or other existential crises happen to be afflicting my guests, so I did my best to be accommodating and kind. This would, of course, bite me in the arse.
It was a dreadful 5 days. Maybe it was 7 days, I can't even remember. It felt like a frickin' eternity though.
Never allow your evil narcissistic mother-in-law to invite herself to your home. They will use your sense of decency and hospitality against you. Every fuckin' time. (And incidentally, putting snake eyes and skin on her has humanized her. She's way worse in person, trust me.)
My partner, from the sheer stress of it, came down with a high fever from the hostile energy that emanates from that woman on the first day, and it just... kind of went downhill from there. It was exhausting. Nor was it the end of our problems from that ruthlessly self-absorbed creature...
I hadn't yet quite discovered how writing music helps me to exorcise things, but anyway, I'd been writing this symphony, scoring it in MuseScore, when the kid brother arrived to stay with us for a month. I felt encouraged by his apparent interest in these things, especially since I don't think he'd had any idea of "classical music" as being something that could be modern or expressive.
Anyway, the kid was in a bad way, living in a Hell with his overbearing father and mentally deranged step-mother (it's a hell of a family, my partner's family...). We bought him a cheapy little laptop when he was here so that he could keep in touch and maybe improve his education (he was home schooled with neither guidance, structure or any self-directed impetus to learn, so at age 15, his literacy, numeracy and general knowledge of the basics of science, etc., were maybe around the same level as an average 8-year old of my generation).
About a month after his visit, he mentioned over Skype that he was thinking to try making music with a free program he'd downloaded. "The only problem is, I can only get Dubstep sounds... it's kind of crap..."
To encourage him, and because it sounded like a lot of fun (and because I could kind of tell he didn't think it was crap at all), I challenged him to a "crap off". To see who could make the funniest song. He was pretty depressed, so I felt the challenge, and the ridiculousness of it would provide a focus for something other than feeling slowly crushed to death by his family life. Whether he was being crushed to death or not, I couldn't really say -- it's how he represented the situation to us, and his whole mental state suggested he wasn't entirely lying.
Well, the "Crap-Off" galvanised him into action, and we shared a couple of songs each to each other over Skype. It was good fun. I still like the funny little songs I made for the Crap-Off, though neither of them are released because I used samples that would have to be cleared, and I can't be bothered with that.
But I discovered, through this kind of joke, the enormous fun and freedom of writing electronic music. Unlike orchestral music, which is constrained by the capabilities of the musicians and the instruments themselves, and by the structures and rules of classical composing, this was free. The possibilities were truly endless. I wanted to explore it in a big way. I also rationalised this surprising and delightful discovery with the idea that these little forays into electronic composition would help me in writing my other symphonic music, in terms of practice, and being able to visualise musical structures more easily than I could at this point. As it turns out, this is also true.
"Unlike orchestral music, which is constrained by the capabilities of the musicians and the instruments themselves, and by the structures and rules of classical composing, this was free. The possibilities were truly endless."
Anyway, kid's father, slightly nonplussed by his kid's enthusiasm, joined us on Skype and asked me, "Why don't you write something less weird? Something more serious, like Rave music?"
By this point in time, I could feel that our position of encouragement for this kid was quietly being curtailed. We were obviously a Bad Influence on this kid -- he was laughing and happy and joking and pursuing interests, and learning things though this whole experience. What's an overbearing parent to do?
At the same time, I could feel that the de-facto mother-in-law was busy at work defaming us. Just how badly had not yet quite come to light. Never mind.
As an act of good will, and as a personal challenge, I decided to try writing some "rave music". I encouraged the kid to maybe try doing some more, too, and said, "We should be a band!" He was really pleased, and when I asked "What should we call it?" he, without hesitation, and based on our respective positions in that fucked-up family situation, said, "The Lowest of Low".
I liked it a lot, for what it meant to him, but also for other reasons which I may expound elsewhere. I had a quick check around and didn't find any other bands using that name at the time, so, even just as a private little joke, "we" became The Lowest of Low.
I still have no idea what the kid's father meant by "Rave music", but I wrote Banjo Madness and But Is It Rave? and sent them off through Skype. I never found out what the guy thought of them, but some kind of floodgates had opened. Over the next month or so, I wrote a large quantity of music, some of which now appears in this album, and much more of which resides (for future reference, maybe, or out of historical interest) in a folder on my computer called "Weirdcrap". I even made an album cover mock-up for "Weirdcrap"....
I would return to the "grotty bathroom" theme for the Horus Tweets album cover later on...
Anyway, As it was coming up towards Christmas, I decided to look into the possibility of making this Lowest of Low thing official, and stumbled upon Distrokid. Their website and services seemed straightforward, and were offered at an incredibly affordable yearly flat fee, so I decided to launch an album, partly as a surprise to the kid, and partly because I realised I'd found something I truly, deeply love doing.
And that's how Raving Masses came to be.
I still thought at this point that I was doing it to encourage the kid (even if he hadn't actually written anything) , and in part, I really was doing it to encourage him. But this thing was much bigger, for me, than I'd realised at this point in time. I chose the name Raving Masses because, to be honest, creating music with such beautiful freedom and humour really is something of a religious experience for me. Even more so as I go on. There's deep, fundaments-of-humanity magick in it.
And so, I decided to make this thing, that started as a kind of joke. And I decided to make it work, and to make it real.
Thus it began.
Now, a year and a half on, I do cringe at the mixing on Raving Masses. But the songs are fun, there are some seeds of musical ideas in here that still make me smile, and as a first album, I stand by it.
Here is the original write-up I made for Raving Masses when I first published these web pages. I've decided to incorporate them here because I like the story and the message:
You know, since there's a lot of space here, I'm just going to say it. Maybe it's dumb, but whenever I see the word "Media", like while I've been creating theses pages, I get a spoinked out feeling, and I have to go look up Jason and Medea. Because, you know, I know the spelling's different, and the pronunciation, but.... you know when you look at a word and you know it's right, but it just kind of sits there looking at you, looking all wrong like when a duck just walks into the supermarket through the damned automatic door?
Speaking of which, I've seen that happen, too. People actually screamed, like the world was coming to an end because a duck came in. That was in England. And that duck coming in and people not knowing what the hell to do made me think briefly about Animal Farm, which is a good book, regardless of what a lot of people say. But after that, while people were just panicking about this duck, I started to wonder how much pressure an automatic supermarket door actually needs to operate. I'm guessing it's more than what an average duck (even a well-fed one that lives near a supermarket) weighs, since I distinctly remember when I was a little kid (about 3 or so), those doors wouldn't open for me unless someone else came and stood there, too. And that's the interesting thing. Because that means that someone colluded with the duck to get it inside.
And that made me feel happy. Not because there was some duck-colluding Agent of Chaos among us (although that's kind of a nice thought, too), but because someone saw the duck trying to get in, and maybe said, "Let me help you, little buddy," (I'm extrapolating here, I don't know what the person actually said, or if they said anything at all -- maybe there was just a meeting of the eyes and an instinctive understanding that passes, electric and silent).
Anyway, I like to think that person of surpassing avian kindness said, "There you go, little guy. Your dreams may not be great, as some men count greatness, but I understand. I will help you, in my own small way, to find your way into the vast and unexplored mysterious treasure-world that stands before you." And that person let the duck in, and never told anyone or let on to anyone else that it was he or she that did it.
That's a genuine kindness, even if no one in the supermarket that day understood it. Some small dream, hatched in the mind of a brave little duck too small to open the supermarket door by himself, became a reality in that mundane human space.
There is magic in this world, even if we are often too blinded by worry or the tedium of humdrum everyday banalities to see it.