©2021 Michael Raven
Back from the dead: Shadowspawn
The never-ending horror continues of my myriad efforts in trying to create music. And, lucky you, you are about to be tortured further with the first band I was in that actually got some gigs while we were together. I had been in a few others up to that, most without band names, doing highly intellectual stuff like a cover of “C is for Cookie” in a punk theme, or an equally abysmal punk rendition of “Peter Pumpkin Eater”, or a song that sounded like it was named after the local transit authority, MTC, but really stood for “My Thick Cock” (it was not intended to be taken literally, as you can tell by the other song choices). One band I was in did a cover of Three Imaginary Boys, by The Cure. Another covered 10.15 Saturday Night, followed by White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane (that was a weird transition).
A lot of it was garage or punk, highly influenced by the local darlings: The Replacements and Hüsker Dü.
Most of my efforts were always towards forming a band more in line with Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, New Order and whatnot.
Shadowspawn (originally slated to be called “Killjoy”, but voted down after a lengthy debate), was the first to get anywhere. Here is a playlist from the very first paying gig I did — the cover, unfortunately went entirely to pay the soundman who did a mediocre job of engineering the gig for us.
I wrote all of the lyrics for Shadowspawn. Unfortunately, I was not lead singer material — even by my own estimation (although I tried many times). Michael (from the first installment of this series) sang and played drums for the band and I sang backup vocals, which I could manage. Mostly. Anyway, I was usually the core songwriter (as the bassist, figure that one out), often coming up with the progressions and the lyrics, handing the handwritten notes off to Michael, who would listen to my yodeling on to get a feel for my intent and then make it sound good. The guitarist (then, Gypsy, but now goes by Brian) noodled around to fill in the empty spaces.
While our sound got more refined near the end and sounded more like our stated influences, this was the whole of our repertoire for this setlist. We were uneven and a bit nervous, so there are some really bad notes in there, and we were just starting to get comfortable with each other’s style (and it shows).
Stairwell was written prior to the band forming, when Brian and I were toying with the idea of starting a band. I barely knew the kid at the time, but we had a class together and he liked the music I was introducing him to, which was more classic rock and folk. It had a lengthy and tedious intro initially, and it was eyerolling in the lyrical department (pretentious AF). I had a “vision” about climbing down a length of stairs to the sea, where dead things washed up and I felt all morose while getting splashed with dark seawater. I think I was going for a Cthulhu eldritch horror feel and it came off as campy. Slightly embarrassed by those lyrics, and you ought to know that not much embarrasses me when it comes to my writing.
Tomorrow’s Day was written before I met Brian, and involved playing chords on a bass, which isn’t as hideous as it might seem. I don’t recall what my motive for the song was at the time, but I think I was influenced by Sanity Assassin (Bauhaus) and Interzone (Joy Division) when I started writing out the bass lines and lyrics to go with it.
I really wish Words had gotten more soundman love. It was one of our later pieces before the gig and I was proud of the lyrics and the results. I cringe when I hear those bad bass notes (my strap had come off the bass early in the song and I kept bending the string trying to hold the bass with my pinky, which is why I hit some sharp notes). I also cringe at the idea of a the reflection of a moon on someone’s eyelash in the lyrics, but I was young and stupid. The song was about being alone, suicidal, and hating on the world.
Requiescat in Pace was influenced by Rozz Williams (C. Death) and Peter Murphy (Bauhaus). I think Michael added a few lines to the lyrics and the dissonance in the bass line was intentional (I used the devil’s tritone to create dis-ease). I got to shout the title at the end. I was happy I could do that. I think we were trying to get across the idea of wanting to be with a dead lover with implied necrophilia (without outright declaring it). Or — at least — I may have tried to get that across. Chances are, the other Mike would have balked at such a thing if he realized what I was doing because…
The song Trips was the only song I sang as lead singer because the lead singer of the band had a hard time singing about whores, condoms, and fucking in cheap hotels. It was another piece I had written, largely in protest over some news story expose that grossed me out about business men and politicians whoring around with everyone and everything. Those activities wouldn’t have bothered me so much except that the expose was about conservative Christian men who used religion as a bludgeon on everyone else they felt was immorally underneath them — only to go do the very things they called other people sinners for doing. I modeled the singing after the Aston boys in Gene Loves Jezebel, mostly because I didn’t sound as awful when I didn’t try to sound good. It was fun. At more than one gig after this one, I would throw out condoms at the folks — and oddly — there were none to be found after we played.
Walking Away was yet another piece written when I first learned to play bass, well before Shadowspawn had formed, just after I realized I was no Simon LeBon, or even Robert Smith and decided I needed to learn how to play an instrument if I wanted to be in a band. I had recorded it with a friend who played drums on the school auditorium’s four-track recorder and overdubbed the vocals. That tape is long lost, but this survives and was the better recording anyway.
The final song is actually waste, in my opinion. A joke gone terribly bad. PGR is a mangled interpretation of Peter Gunn. We needed to fill up a half hour set and we kept it in because Brian could do all kinds of things with feedback and flange to have fun. For the record, he looked at the time much like Gary Oldman did in Dracula — years before that movie was made: dark, circle-rim sunglasses, with curly, back length hair and the beginnings of a beard. So, Brian got to do his antics (splits, back bends, feedback, jumping around) while we looked stoic and unconcerned. Eyeroll. But it seemed fun at the time.
Any unevenness between recordings is because I was trying to digitally “fix” what I could out of a very poor recording. But Chris has asked me to share it with him to satisfy his curiosity and I had time to tweak with everything today. So you can thank him or throw things at him, depending on how you feel about having this aberration appear in your feed.