Brian Paone

Author // Musician

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Transpose's "Retribution" turns 8 years old

My band, Transpose, released our second album, Retribution, eight years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows within 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 did not appear in 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. 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 one long 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 other albums' songs had been finished musically first, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal pattern 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 was happening in the scene: alarm clocks, sounds of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. It was a lot of fun to drop those into the songs throughout. This was also the most amount of 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, it marked 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 consisted of about three songs from the first album, A Delicate Impact. We moved the songs from the first 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 film can be found here on my site under the MEDIA tab or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table on a TV 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 album turns 14 ...

*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, 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 sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu,  Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. 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 & 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 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 penned 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 ten 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 one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt 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 the listener through a journey of those terrible ten 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 I had never written before. Both in 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 them 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 of writing, 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 sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded fourteen years ago this month, and even after more than 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 and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs 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 album 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.

"Moonlight City Drive 2" has been submitted to my editor

I started writing the sequel to my 2017 supernatural crime-noir novel, Moonlight City Drive, back in July. I had never expected the book to become a trilogy, so when I wrote the first part, I wasn’t worried about finding loopholes or ways to extend all these characters’ storylines. That proved to be the hardest part of writing a sequel to a novel that I had no intention of ever writing further.

But, here we are, middle of December, and the second draft of Moonlight City Drive Part 2 (subtitled Electric Boogaloo) has been sent to my editor for a first-half release schedule in 2019. However, this time I was smarter. I went into writing the sequel knowing this was now going to be a trilogy (with Part 3 slated for 2021), so I could purposefully leave larger breadcrumbs, and I didn’t feel so guilty about leaving bigger plot holes wide open. I was able to set the characters into specific places, like playing chess, so their movements and behaviors can be continued (and finalized) in Part 3. That was also slightly difficult for me: to leave characters slightly unresolved, knowing their story will be wrapped up in another book. I have never had to write/think like that before with any of my novels.

So now, I’m just sitting back at the pool with an umbrella-adorned cocktail, waiting for my editor to return the novel so I can work on the third and final draft.

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