Friday, September 26, 2008

The hal al Shedad's Last Two Shows - The New Beginning That Never Was

Here is the download: The hal al Shedad 1999-01-17 and 1999-04-08

Here are the set lists from these shows:
1999-01-07: Solitaire/Separation Anxiety/Question-Statement-Answer/Vampire Costume

1999-04-08: Plausible Deniability/Solitaire/Question-Statement-Answer/Separation Anxiety/Vampire Costume

As 1999 began, the hal al Shedad was at a difficult juncture in our career. The band had been continually progressing and mutating over the past four years and now was at a point where the songs we had originally written had very little in common with the songs written two years later and nothing like the songs written four years after that. Furthermore, there was so little of the original emotional connection to many of our songs, and we were spending most of our practices re-learning our old songs instead of writing new material. Any band that has been around long enough reaches a certain point (for us being our fourth year), you can either move forward and not look back or become a human jukebox, continuously playing old material and occasionally playing a new song here and there. We decided on the first option, as we were not the hal al Shedad show and revue, so we shelved all of our previous songs and wrote an entire new set for 1999. We had 5 new songs ready and started playing these exclusively in and around Atlanta.

Attached to this post are two shows from this period, recorded at the Echo Lounge by Henry Owings, and luckily he did this otherwise we would have no recordings whatsoever for several of these songs. The first show was on January 17 with Blonde Redhead and the second (our final show ever) was on April 8 with Sam Prekop and Papa M (M, Aerial M, David Pajo, whatever), also four years to the day of our first show ever in Pensacola with Inkwell. We did not know at the time that it was going to be our last show, but there was a gap of a few months before we got together and practiced again, and at that last practice it was clear that each member of the band wanted to make different music and the whole thing ended pretty much at that practice. It is a shame that we never played an official final show, but sometimes that is how it goes.

Ed started playing bass in The Good Friday Experiment soon after this, and also focused on his recording career at The Living Room Studio. I will still see Ed's yellow Les Paul that he played in hal when I visit his studio, and wonder if I will ever see him play it again. I moved to guitar to play in Chocolate Kiss at this time, but have been back playing drums over the past few years - still the same drumset as always. Ben played the same bass setup for years in various bands, but finally got a new custom made bass in the past few weeks. His current band, The Forever War, is playing at the Drunken Unicorn on Wednesday October 1, so go check it out.
Here are some thoughts on these songs:

1. Solitaire - This was one of our heaviest songs, and was properly recorded at Chase Park Transductions by David Barbe in Athens. It appeared on the split 7" with Rainer Maria and on the Singles and Unreleased CD that came out a few years ago.

2. Separation Anxiety - Also called "the piano song". Ben started playing an electric piano at shows, and Ed had a Roland Juno 80 synthesizer by this point, so we had two keyboards up on stage in addition the drums, guitars and amps. Ed actually plays bass on this song, and we recorded a proper version of it at Ed's studio, also appearing on the singles collection CD.

3. Question Statement Answer - Never recorded except here at these shows, but a good song nonetheless. We had a period where we were writing quiet songs with a lot of open space in them, but near the end we started writing rockers again, although never as frantic as "On Building a Timebomb" or "Supercolliding Superconductor", for example.

4. Plausible Deniability - This one was more or less unfinished. We originally wrote it with a heavy ending much like our songs on Textures of Tomorrow, but scrapped it and wrote a more choppy groove somewhat inspired by the Sorts, who Ben was really into at this time. We recorded it with the old ending in Ed's studio, but had this live ending from the show, so when we released the singles collection, we actually go from the studio version to the live version halfway through the song.

5. Vampire Costume - This was our last song ever written, and kind of fitting thematically for the end of the band. Ed plays synth on it, with some heavy guitar in the beginning for dynamics. The song was never recorded in a studio, which is unfortunate as it was a favorite of mine. This is a lesson to all you bands out there - record your music! It dosen't have to be at an actual studio, but just get it on tape somewhere or you will regret it later.


  1. So what is the difference between these and the versions on the "singles and unreleased" cd? My understanding is that some of those tracks were produced by merging bits from these two different live recordings- kind of like bitches brew or something. Is that the case, and if so, how did that work? I'm really just curious about the process, I guess. You can fill me in in person since it seems we might actually be in the same places at the same times this week.

  2. With regards to the recordings on the Singles collection, Plausible Deniability went from the studio version recorded at the Living Room, and then to the live version for the end part as we didn't like the original ending we recorded. Vampire Costume took the first half of the song from our show in April and merged it with the second half from our show in January because the April version got cut off before we finished, which is a shame because I was playing the song better then. We also could have recorded the damn thing. Question Statement Answer I believe is just the version from the April show, as the January show version has Ed's E string slightly flat. He tuned down to D for that song, and I guess over tuned. Anyhow, there was some studio trickery, but no Bitches Brew.

  3. i remember being at that echo lounge show i think. at this point i believe i had almost stopped going to shows and was skipping back and forth to nyc or had possibly already moved there and just been back visiting. i never really got to get into this last incarnation of hal because of me being gone. i forgot how handsome you all were back then. you guys should do some kind of then and now photo montage. ben took one of all us inkwell boys a few years ago at dotties (seeing retconned i think?) and i hold it quite dear to me as we look old and tired and boring (which we are/were).

  4. I took a photo of us when we were compiling the Singles and Unreleased CD, which I believe you included in the insert photos, but that was back in 2002 or so. I'm going to the Forever War show tonight, and I will bring my camera and maybe take some photos of Ben and Ed (if he's working).

  5. i remember hearing 'seperation anxiety' at ed's studio and really liking it. i'm sorry that i didn't get to see one of those last shows.

  6. this is amazing! thank you for posting!!