This recording represents everything I learned from my experiences with Suentes Po and Clarence. Suentes Po was a high school rock/pop band where I played drums but also had a hand in the songwriting. We may have had potential but we did not get together too often so I created Clarence out of boredom and started writing and recording songs to four-track tape. Some of it is okay. Almost all of it is embarrassing in some way. I released a couple of tapes under the Clarence moniker. They were widely unfocused.
Then I was in my first studio apartment and I was lonely and bored so I decided to make a concept album where every song led into the next (this proved too difficult to achieve for the whole thing but you can hear it in a couple of songs). So I wrote and recorded some new folk leaning songs and reworked a couple of Clarence songs. It is interesting to look back and listen to what comes from the restriction of only four tracks, no bass guitar, and no drumset. I like restrictions because I feel comfortable knowing that the possibilities are not endless and also because I am lazy when it comes to recording. I want so badly for it to be like I hear it in my head but I usually have to give up and let it be what it is. For example, I bought special tapes made for four tracks hoping that maybe the recordings would sound better but they actually screwed it up and added reverb that I didn't notice until mixdown. It made me angry at the time because I was trying to make a real recording but now I like it because it has a special quality that cannot be reproduced. It is proof that you cannot try to make a recording like this. It is more a product of what was available and the accidents that happened while I was trying to pursue something larger. Another thing that I remember is that I was afraid of my neighbors hearing me record. I didn't want them to hear me doing the vocal tracks or know how many takes I would have to do to get parts right.
Then when it came time to name it and create album art I decided to avoid both by creating the President Series. The original idea was to have each album be named according to the president number and have a president picture on the cover. The band name was also supposed to change with each president name. But changing the band name each time didn't make sense and Maxel Toft was added later. This was my first CD (cd burners were just then popular on home computers) and it featured a picture of Bill Clinton on the front and track list on the back.
I wanted to do a Woody Guthrie cover that you usually don't hear so I chose Ship In The Sky because it is so simple and complex at the same time and amazing. The Clarence Show is a tribute to leaving Clarence behind. I used a homemade mini strat for the electric guitar part (on the original Clarence version I tried to play guitar and piano at the same time). Makes Sense is a Clarence song I recorded three times before this shortened version. I used practice drum pads with piezo buzzers in them hooked up to a Casio DZ-1 hooked up to someones keyboard for the drum parts. Pirate Garrghl is a parody of the Local H song Grrrlfriend. The H. P. and the C. D. (hokey pokey and chicken dance) is a dumb song about two people who just met at a wedding and start having their own wedding. I removed the percussion because it sounded lame. Wash features more electric drums and overuse of harmony. Here's Lookin' At You is an embarrassing self portrait. Gonna Blues was reworked later on Reagan because I didn't like the strumming. Loveletters tries to figure out how many words rhyme with et. There were more but I am lazy. Longdistance has the first appearance of the banjo uke. I should bring it back for future recordings. Gettin' Old features bells from when I was in Suentes Po and wanted something to set me apart from other drummers. Now I think it is gimmicky and contributes my current minimalist approaches to music. Weather Report is an ode to God to counter the challenge that Gonna Blues provoked. Double Negative Love is one of many depressing almost anti love songs but it makes good use of the banjo uke.