After attending Steve Earle’s “Camp Copperhead” I wanted to go home and write a “Copperhead Road” type of song as a tribute to the experience.
Steve Earle uses “Drop D” tuning quite often in his songs so, that’s what I started with when I began to create this song. This tuning lent itself quite well towards developing the two main guitar “riffs” that are used throughout the song, which in turn give it, it’s Outlaw Country/Deliverance feel.
Next, I needed to come up with a concept for the song. I didn't want a 3 minute song, I wanted to write an Epic. One of the major ones in literature is Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”. So, I thought about writing a song that would would use all the elements from it and allow me to then utilize different characters, analogies and interpretations throughout the song.
“Call Me Ishmael” is one of the most famous opening lines in literature so, I wanted to open the song with the same line in order to immediately clue the listener into the “Moby Dick” story I was about to tell.
However, here is where I decided to throw my first curve ball. I was reading an article about Mexican Cartels and learned that the smuggling of exotic animals was a very large business for them. So, I decided this would be a great subject to base my song on and “Ishmael” in my song became a Parrot that was captured by the cartel. The entire song is told from his perspective. I provided several clues to this with the drawing of the Parrot on the back of the CD Jacket as well as the CD itself.
I then decided to throw a second curve ball in the story and make a Jungle Cat, named Jesus, the Moby Dick character. I wanted the listeners think that Ishmael’s faith is what had him standing strong during his capture when Ishmael says: “Jesus is watching, Jesus is near, in the heart of the jungle I stand strong with no fear”. But it’s really because he knows that Jesus “the Jungle Cat” has his back, and is lurking in the high grass for just the right moment to attack. Once again, the drawing of Jesus and Ishmael are presented prominently on the back of the CD, as I wanted the story’s main characters to be portrayed on the CD Jacket in plain sight.
After the cartel/smugglers are asleep, Jesus attacks and destroys the camp setting Ishmael and the other captured animals free. The Captain Ahab/Pablo Escobar character swears he will chase Jesus “to the gates of hell” (Same as in Moby Dick)
I had a lot of fun both musically and lyrically throughout the song. I’m a huge fan of 70’s PROG Music, so I wrote a PROG style bridge to represent when Jesus attacks the camp. Ethan Sherman on Steel Guitar and Mandolin brought this section alive. This was the part of the song that led me to claim the creation of a new Music Genre “Outlaw Country Prog”.
“Ishmael” is an 8-minute epic and as the closing song on the album we wanted to have a grand ending with a loud Gong smash and then long fade out as the album ends. Stephen and Brett went out on a snipe-hunt to find a Gong we could use. But after searching everywhere they never did find one and we had to improvise. So at the end of the song what you hear is actually well mic’d symbols and some magical editing. This is one of those songs we just didn’t want to end.
In addition to myself on all guitar parts the musicians on this song included: Stephen Haaker on Drums and Percussion; Rob Hall on Bass; Bonnie Brooksbank on Violin; Fabian Chavez, on Conga; Ethan Sherman on Mandolin and Steel Guitar. Harrison and Phoebe Crenshaw along with Diana Ortiz were on backing vocals and harmonies.This song was engineered and produced by Brett Grossman and Stephen Haaker. We recorded this song at Perfect Sound Studio's in Frogtown CA and Cosmic Voyager Studio's in Los Angeles. The Album was then Mastered at "the Lodge" in NYC by Emily Lazar.