Brian Paone

Author // Musician

Transpose's "Retribution" album turns 6 years old

My band, Transpose, released our second album, "Retribution," six years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows in those four years where we really wore out that first album. It was time to not only have some new material to play live, but way past due to give the fans a new batch of songs.

This album was the most unique album I have ever been a part of. It is the only true concept album I have ever written. The songs can't be listened out of order, there are characters, dialogue, a plotline, a climax, and resolution. We began writing this album right around the time I was in the editing stages of my second novel, "Welcome to Parkview," and there was a part of that novel (which was eventually removed and not part of the published version) that was about 20 pages long and told the story of a man who knew his wife was cheating on him, so he follows her and spies on her meeting some random man at a hotel, and when he confronts her the next morning, she won't tell him what happened, so he burns the hotel where the affair happened to the ground, killing everyone inside, but ultimately forgiving his wife in the process.

I removed this part from the book and instead rewrote the 20 pages into lyrics, keeping some of the dialogue to be sung in the songs. We were really going for a true concept album like Pink Floyd's "The Wall," Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," or The Who's "Quadrophenia." An album that is really, just on big song; a story put to music.

It was also the first album, of the now-7 albums I have written, where the lyrics were written first, and THEN the band put music to what was happening in the story. Up until "Retribution," every song was completely finished musically, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal melody around the preexisting music. This time, as a band, we had to verbalize what was going on in the "scene" and then write the music to that action.

In the studio we added sound effects to accent what's going on in the scene: alarm clocks, sound of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. That was a lot of fun to drop those in the songs throughout. This was also the most keyboards I had written/played on an album since Drop Kick Jesus' album "Splatterguts," which came out in 1998, so it was also a lot of fun to get behind the keyboard and compose again.

As soon as the album was finished, that was also the birth of a totally new live show for Transpose. Gone were the random order of songs from the first album. Our shows were now "Retribution" from start to finish, and then our encore; which was about three songs from the first album. We moved the songs from the firs album to the end of the show, and performed the new album in its entirety as the meat of the live shows. We toured pretty extensively on the "Retribution" album for two years.

I even made a film to go along with the album, a visually journey of the story as the album plays. That can be found here on my site or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table during the tours and shows.

I have been a part of 7 albums in my musical career total, and "Retribution," still to this day, is the album I am most proud of than any other album I have written. I don't know what the future will bring in regards to how I will feel about future albums, but this one will always be super special to me. It was one of those albums where I felt everything just clicked, the whole way through. And not just because it was the first time one of my stories had been turned into an album, that I could sing every night on stage.

Oh, and we also recorded a cover of Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" during the recording sessions and added it as a hidden bonus track on the album. Ha!

The Grave Machine self-titled album turns 12

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and multiple tours, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003 we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three-piece (something I had never done before.) This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies, and industrial progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were musically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu, Godflesh, Scorn, and Pitchshifter. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit In The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.

I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs that we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had written for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.

The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for 10 weeks... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash, and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started, and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but on of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone has just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over 100 times daily. And the way I felt during the 10 weeks that I was on them, was like an emotionless robot. Sure I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.

That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat-line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album AS a concept album, but the album takes you through a journey of those terrible twelve weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics, and vocal melodies, that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style that I had never written before. Both Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "because I hate you," in one of the songs... it literally meant, "because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience, without actually telling you about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.

After two years, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and does guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded 12 years ago this month, and even after a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally an try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says, that of the 6 albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite, and the best vocal performance from me.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs that I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified so maybe, just maybe The Grave Machine, might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band, and writing those songs, and having that albums as a part of my personal discography as a musician.

And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife... so there's always that.

Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys)

So yes, that's the title of my new short story that will be published in a few months in the Scout Media anthology, "A Haunting of Words." The book will be a collection of short stories by authors from all over the world, and the only theme the authors had to work with was: all stories must involve a ghost and/or a haunting. There was no mandated genre, so I'm sure there are going to be some comedies, some romance, some horror, some drama, some sci-fi stories... all revolving around a haunting or a ghost.

My submission is a more drama than horror, and surrounds three senior grade high school students; one who is on more prescription meds than he probably needs to be; one who has taken out a restraining order on said pill-head; and the third is swinging by a rope deep inside the woods, waiting for the search party to find his lifeless body. The story is an adaptation of Porcupine Tree's "Fear of a Blank Planet" album.

The release date for the anthology will be announced shortly, and I'm really excited to see what other authors and stories will be alongside mine in this haunting collection.

.....more to come.

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