Here is a run down on the stories behind the songs on Give War A Chance.
This album is a collaboration between Mike Maloney and me, John of GuitarAttack.com. Mike is my next door neighbor and killer drummer. He is the also guy who got us in to meet Mr. Ted Nugent.
During January and February 2007, Mike and I recorded these 11 original songs in our basements....uh...home studios. The songs were recorded on a Toshiba CoreDuo notebook computer using Cakewalk Sonar 6 and a TASCAM 244 USB computer recording interface. The drums were recorded in Mike's basement, and everything else, including the mixdown, was completed in my basement. It should be noted that this is the first album I've recorded in years without either a drum machine or pre-recorded drum loops, so it is a bit of a milestone.
What is up with the title? Are you trying to cause trouble? Well...not really. Keep in mind that the majority of these songs were written in a war zone during a war. That being said, remember that preachers didn't give us Americans freedom of religion: Soldiers did. Reporters didn't give us the freedom of the press: Soldiers did. A mob didn't give us the freedom to assemble: Soldiers did, and on and on and on. This CD wasn't meant to be a political statement; rather, we really just needed a name for it and Mike thought it up. He also thought the term "combat rock" might be appropriate. It may be; you make the call.
As always, I tried to avoid a lot of creative editing with the software and what you hear is, in most cases a complete take played straight through from start to finish.
Here are the songs in the order in which they appear on the album.
Below are descriptions and a little background on each:
Wings of Destiny. This song never got much past demo stage before this recording. It is one of the few pure instrumentals I've written, and I've always liked the melody. I wrote this song in Kosovo in 1999. The melody came to me while flying on a Belgian helicopter from Skopje, Macedonia back to Pristina, Kosovo. We were flying over the southern mountain pass and the entire valley opened up, and it was just beautiful. I completed a demo when we got back to Germany, but it never appeared on any CDs. I like harmony guitar parts, and this is one turned out really cool. As far as the name goes, my first unit was the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and the aviation brigade's motto was "Wings of Destiny". I decided this was an appropriate name for the song, and I think it would be a good theme song for one of those ubiquitous Army "look at me...look at me" videos units seem to make after every training exercise. By the way -- I hate those videos.
Unconfirmed Kill. This song was written years ago after a night helicopter gunnery range. I was flying in an attack helicopter, and I shot a missile at a target. When the missile hit, I was happy, but the Range Officer in the tower called and said "Unconfirmed Kill". That radio call bummed me out, and it stuck with me until I got home the next day. I sat down and wrote the song making sure that radio call (well...not the actual one) was the chorus.
Last in Line. The original version of this song was on the Afghanistan CD from 2005. I have really enjoyed my time in the Army, but, like with any job, I’ve felt like I've gotten the short end of the stick several times, particularly with assignments. No...no bitterness here, and I believe it has more to do with my last name beginning with the letter "W" than anyone being "out to get me". I believe I was the last person to get an assignment out of this school, and it really isn't that much fun!
Standing on the Edge. This song appeared on the first album in 1993. Originally recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder, it has been one of our favorites over the years. It had been a demo until I returned from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and finished it. I recorded a version with friends Doug Hall and Robert Mabry in 1987 or 1988, and it was pretty close to this version. What prompted me to finish the song was my experience in Operation Desert Storm. After the initial push through Iraq into Kuwait, my unit set up an assembly area near the oil well fires (remember those on CNN?). It was dark during the day, and at night the fires from the wells just looked hellish, to say the least. I remember standing outside my tent at night and looking at all of those burning wells thinking that this is what the "edge" looks like. An incredible memory.
Showdown. This was a demo from about 1989 or 1990. I recorded the original version on a 4-track cassette recorder, and it had a double bass line all the way through it (courtesy of an Alesis HR-16 drum machine). Recording it with Mike really made the song come alive. It was written about a "showdown" typically seen in an old western movie. I am a big Clint Eastwood fan, and I believe this was based on "High Plains Drifter". There is a lot more deep symbolism, but it seems to escape me...the bottom line is that if you let somebody get away with something, you are either going to have to endure it or do something about it.
Nothing to Say. The original version of this song was on the Afghanistan CD from 2005. I went through Germany on my way to Afghanistan, and I watched a lot of CNN and FoxNews on TV while I was there waiting on a flight. There were plenty of "I would've done this" or "He should have done that" from these experts, and they reminded me of Ron Burgundy on Anchorman...they probably would have read anything appearing on that teleprompter. I thought about this on my flight, and it really kind of got me fired up. This song is about celebrities who have nothing better to do than shoot their mouths off about politics. They have no other qualifications other than being American and famous that allows them to say all kinds of wild things – and, of course, the media will help them get their story out. I believe most, if not all, have Nothing to Say, and this is what I’m talking about here.
Last Days. This song was on my 1997 demo album recorded in Leavenworth, Kansas. It is one of my favorites, and came from an idea I recorded on my TASCAM 8-track cassette recorder. Having real drums really made the song sound better, and it is still one of my favorites. The idea came from seeing a guy standing on a corner in downtown Leavenworth, Kansas. He looked homeless and a little scary, and he was holding a crude, hand written sign that referred to the "last days being here". That is a recurring theme throughout history, of course. I got home and started playing a riff, and the song was born. All in all, seeing that guy really weirded me out.
Arabian Sun. This was the first song I wrote during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when Mr. Ken Huddleston sent me a guitar. We were sitting in an assembly area in Kuwait when the guitar arrived. It was about 10 o'clock in the morning, and the smoke from the oil well fires made it as dark as late evening. I thought that it was ironic that a place that was supposed to be so sunny was not at this point...it was kind of spooky. I dusted this song off in 2006 after seeing all of the images on TV from Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is a pretty personal song, and while it is acoustic based, it is still combat rock.
One More Mile. This song was also on the 1997 demo album recorded in Leavenworth, Kansas. The original version didn't have the blues intro. That was added after I decided to compete in Guitar Center's "King of the Blues" competition in 2007. I always liked this song, and thought that UFO could've really done a good job on it. The inspiration came from an old song I had written back in my hip metal days called "Road to Hell". I did it with a band I was playing with, and it had a cool riff, but it just never came together. One night I was playing the old riff, and "One More Mile" just popped out, even though the riffs were different. Come to think of it, One More Mile is a much better song, dude. By the way -- I got hosed in the competition.
Backs to the Wall. This was written in the late 80's when I was listening to a lot of Scorpions, Ratt, et al. It never appeared on a demo compilation, but it was a favorite of mine. I guess the central theme is being backed against the wall; that is, not having any alternatives. Boy, I hate when that happens! Saxon also did a song called "Backs to the Wall" on the Castle Donnington album. About the only thing the two songs have in common is the title.
Sands of Time. The original version of this song was on the Afghanistan CD from 2005. When you are in the “box” (i.e., deployed to a combat zone), days start running together and it starts taking on the feeling of Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day”. In the movie, Bill Murray lives the same day over and over for what seems like forever. That is kind of what it is like in Afghanistan. After a while you start to reflect on impact of time slipping away rather than the great significance of the mission. It is a normal human reaction, and this is what leads to a “short timer’s” attitude. It takes a lot of work to keep a good attitude!
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Why so many guitar solos? Because it is a rock album and I wanted to do some guitar solos. I believe guitar solos are cool, and some of the great 70’s soloists influenced my guitar style. I still like to listen to Ace Frehley from KISS, Rick Derringer, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser from Blue Öyster Cult, and Michael Schenker from UFO and Scorpions. Al DiMeola was one of my early late 70’s shred heroes (before we called it shred). I also like the 80’s shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine, and Warren DiMartini from RATT (even though you might think his band was a "hair band"). The 80’s guys really got me interested in working on my technique, and I still like to listen to all of them. Did I mention Mr. Van Halen?
Do you wanna be a rock star? A lot of my friends and colleagues asked me why I recorded the album, and several joked that I wanted to be a 40-something rock star. I detected some jealousy and curiosity, but I always reply that this kind of music is suitable to be classified as art – that, and I prefer working on a project like this much more than worrying about what my boss thinks of me and time lining out my career. I personally like the process of writing and recording music, and, like GuitarAttack.com, I created it not to make money or to be famous, but rather as an artistic outlet. It is my hope that there are some of you out there that may like this recording, and if you do, I really appreciate it. There will also be some of you who will not like it. That is OK, too. I only ask that you don't get on the GuitarAttack Forum and start personally attacking Mike and me. If you do, I will delete the post and ban you.
A word of warning. We are not the All-American Rejects or My Chemical Romance. We have not been on American Idol. We are not hip-hop. However, if you like some old-school, driving rock, this may be the CD for you.