Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The hal al Shedad Self-Titled Album (1996)
Here is the album for download: The hal al Shedad Self-Titled Album
Where oh where to begin? We had done 3 singles with At A Loss Records (Sound of Swords Clashing), Lunchbox Records (split with Inkwell) and Auto Stop Records (Symbol of Sound Progress), respectively, and had enough music ready to do a full-length. On our winter 1995 tour, we played in Austin, TX with Action Patrol, and Mark Owens from Buddy System Records came out to the show and I guess liked what he saw (or was it Matt Owens?). Later on he talked with his brother (the other one) as well as Mike Simonetti from Troubleman Records in New Jersey and decided to put out a split-release LP/CD. Mike told us that except for Carbomb, it was the first band he ever released without seeing live first. We recorded the album in March of 1996 in New Jersey with Alap Momin (from Dalek) studio in his parent’s house. He had recently recorded all of the Rye singles and the split LP with Karp, and we were big fans of their sound, especially guitar and cymbal sound, so we went for it. The songs were literally tracked in his garage, with the guitar amp on one side, the drums on the other, and the bass amp in the next room. I’m pretty sure the songs were recorded on ADAT tapes, just to give you an idea of the era we are talking about here. Alap was very fond of telling us that something sounded “sick”, which we weren’t used to hearing coming from Georgia, but we liked it. People seemed to enjoy this record, I have gotten many good reviews from all over and the only complaint I ever had was the recording quality. But we are talking DIY postpunk here – sorry the production value is not what you are used to. I believe we recorded the entire album in 3 or 4 days, and then drove home overnight to play with Dahlia Seed at the Driverdome. For the most part there is only one guitar, bass, drums and vocals on the album – we played it live with no overdubs or extra instrumentation. The album didn’t come out until December of 1996 (9 months turnaround time), and by then we already had the next two singles and some of the Textures of Tomorrow album written and incorporated into our set. Ben and Phil Dwyer from Inkwell worked the night shift at Kinkos during this time, so we had inserts printed in file folders for the LP release, just as something special. I think we did two pressings of this album and the file folder insert was only included on the first. Phil Dwyer also did all the artwork, which we loved and were really proud of. He basically legitimized our band through his design. Around this same time the Promise Ring’s first album came out, and it kind of looked like ours, which was kind of a bummer, but what can you do. I also liked the idea of the Hal al Shedad identification cards, which expired on March 15, 1998 although I can't remember the signficance of that date. Perhaps it was 3 years after the first show. We actually had these laminated ID cards printed, but these are long gone now. The video stills on the front were taken by Phil Dwyer from a show at a former frat house at Emory University in Atlanta, I believe it was a Food Not Bombs benefit. I still have the original video, and about 100 still images that Phil went through to find these. One of these stills is included above. The photographs were taken by Valery Lovely, a local scene icon, photographer and sister of Lewis Lovely from Scout. We walked around downtown Atlanta and used Tim from Scout's car trying to get some good surveillance-type photos to include in this release. We almost called the album “Surveillance of Heaven”, but I never had a self-titled album for any release I played on, so I recommended that we just keep it nameless. That is about all I can think of regarding this album, send me a comment if you have any questions and I can try to answer them.
Here are some alternate pictures from that photo session:
Here is an overview of each song:
Walking Blind Dancing – Good early-style song of ours, like the early singles but starting to move in the more varied dynamics direction of our mid-period stuff. Since Ben starts with the big “IIIIIIIII”, we thought it would be good to start the album that way. I liked to play things with a shuffle rhythm, and then back to straight rhythms. This is also done well on After School.
Unification – I liked how Franklin’s first album had a long instrumental song after the first rocker, and we decided to go the same way. We were into non-conventional song sequencing as a band. Josh Lott from At the Price of the Union told me once that he saw us play this song in a house in Athens and that convinced him that this type of music was the way to go.
After School – A good start with the drum fill, shuffle/straight/shuffle structure. Ed does vocal duties, which was very rare. I think Ben wrote the lyrics but wanted Ed to sing them. I always liked Ed’s singing/yelling voice, but he barely used it in the band.
Postcard Communication – We were big fans of the song “The Everyday World of Bodies“ by Rodan, and I think this was our kind of homage to it. Ben used to always start his drives in the van by putting that song on. This is when we started getting into longer and more orchestrated songs, also with The Art of Mapmaking on the same album, but didn’t really hit our peak until Textures of Tomorrow, which has a few big ones. I think we did this in one take, just because it was so long to start over.
Spoken City – This was one we wrote and almost never played live. The only time I remember playing it was in Rapid City, SD when we played someone’s hallway and the conditions were so tight an loud that we had to play the end part just to blow the place out. That end part has 3 basses going at the same time, by the way.
Consolation Prize – Great middle part that had the token “Troubleman Rhythm”, i.e. da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da, da-da/da-da. We played this one quite a bit live, along with Local Seeing, Unification and That One (of course).
The Question is Moot – My only singing on a song post-Midget Farmer days. It was fun to play, and I liked the mix of having Ed sing some, Ben sing some and myself. However, Ben was really the singer, and I was just messing around. No more singing after this one.
Falling Out – Another one written pretty much for the album and almost never played live. Like a lost HAS song that I hardly recognize when I hear it again.
That One – If hal had a hit single, this would have been it. We played it at pretty much every show. It was fun to play, and was always powerful. I really miss playing it.
The Art of Mapmaking – We split it into 2 songs just because of the length and to be pretentious. I remember playing it in Philadelphia and getting a great response. We liked to play with dynamics at that point, and trying to make the quietest parts as quiet as possible, and the loudest parts as loud as possible, hopefully in the same song.
Here is the artwork and a promo poster from the album: