* INTRO/EXTRA I-II. What made you finally decide to record and release the recordings contained within both Pity Party Animal & My Wife, which were originally written between 2004-06, nearly 14-16 years later? How would you say your overall musical sound, style, point-of-view, etc. has changed and evolved since the release of Pity Party Animal earlier this year?
Dan Ex Machina: To tackle these both at once: The short answer is that I had bad, inconsistent, home-made, occasionally inspired "finished" versions of a few records recorded at the time they were written, both in dorm rooms when I was in college. I didn't know what I was doing, which was occasionally good for the imagination of the song-writing and arrangements. It was only in the last few years that I was able to revisit these projects—more than a decade later—and make them sound how I, also, wanted them to sound.
Thank Doug Gallo, New Jersey's best-kept secret and a complete genius, who adapted to a frightening number of songs suddenly being thrown his way, in all different styles, with recordings we often just taped over from more-than-a-decade-old sessions. I've always wanted these out, but lacked the resources, know-how, financial means, and contributors to fill in the spaces. Better late than never; I can't even tell you how it feels to finally complete projects from age 19 and 21 and release them at 35. I feel like [Guns N' Roses'] Axl Rose. My musical identity hasn't changed much in the six months between the release of the two, but it's changed plenty—how could it not?—in the 14-16 years since these were written.
01. "My 60 Memorable Games:" What can you tell us about this instrumental intro?
DXM: So, keep in mind, these are from 2006... so, I'll try my best to remember haha. This one is pretty much exactly the same as it was in 2006, other than being mixed and mastered properly. Doug [Gallo] might have added a little reverb. In college, people used to tell me I sounded like Ben Gibbard from Death Cab [for Cutie]. We have a similar vocal range, but I attempt far worse ideas than him. Anyway, I decided to rip off Death Cab & The Postal Service both on this one, though, Aphex Twin was a far, far, incalculably bigger personal influence on me, in general. I have thousands of electronic pieces in Fruity Loops from the last 20 years and it would be cool to release more of them someday.
02. "Admit:" How is a Dan Ex Machina (DXM) song, like "Admit," for example, constructed from start to finish?
DXM: This one I don't remember much about writing. It's my least-favorite song on the record... so, I guess, it's ballsy to lead with. I think, it was an early experiment in trying to sound dynamic, before I had a live band—which I didn't have until five years after My Wife was written. But I'm less protective of weaker songs, so I f**k around more with their sound. This one has both the drum loop and live drums, the blown-out fuzz bass in the verses, [and] various weird percussion elements—the bodhran is real. Anything to make it more interesting. But as with the other songs I was less "big" on—Doug really made them better than they had a right to be.
03. "Avril Lavigne:" Why name a song "Avril Lavigne?" And aside from Avril herself, who would you cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while creating My Wife?
DXM: I'm really proud of this song, musically, and I don't dislike it, lyrically, but it was intended satire that didn't age well—for whatever reason, My Wife is the only DXM record that attempts several strange "a$$hole-to-women songs" (I'm a big Warren Zevon fan and not against taking on this persona) that don't really work as the "commentary" I thought in college. This one's bratty—it was supposed be about manufacturing beef for no reason. Now, I feel a little uncomfortable performing a song live where I call Avril a "b*tch," even if it's tongue-in-cheek. The satirical target isn't clear enough. It rips live, though, this recording is significantly faster than the 2006 version and was completely re-shaped by us playing it live for years. But Avril's been through enough—Lyme Disease, the Nickelback guy. Her 2007 album, The Best Damn Thing, is really great.
04. "I Think You Should Consider Therapy:" What was your inspiration behind the lyrics for "I Think You Should Consider Therapy?"
DXM: Um, my family. My life would have been significantly more peaceful, if I had taken my own advice and started therapy closer to when this song was written. It's a complete rip-off of The Magnetic Fields and I'm very proud of it, not least because I did almost everything on this one, but, also, because I absolutely love The Magnetic Fields. I would love to do a whole Magnetic Fields album.
05. "Divorcée:" How does "Divorcée" fit into the overarching theme of My Wife?
DXM: It doesn't—My Wife is named after Borat, the most 2006 thing I could think of. "Divorcée" fits more with "I Don't Want Anything to Do With You" off of Pity [Party Animal]. They're Eminem-ish sh*tty songs about my, uh, difficult relationship with my mom. "Divorcée" is a nasty little joke about trying to convince my dad to divorce her. At the time, I think, it was the proudest I've ever been of something I've done—wrote it very quickly in my head without a guitar.
The pre-chorus melody is still one of my favorite things I've written and I can't believe I finally wrote one of those "[Smells Like] Teen Spirit"-style guitar solos, where it's just the verse melody. Those are classic and I'm happy to have one of my own. Only when we rerecorded it, did the idea come up for Doug to whistle over the guitar solo, though. I don't think I've ever heard a whistled "guitar solo" before. This one is far more of a complete satire than "Avril" and all of the above things, make me a lot happier with it, though, the bridge is kinda lazy. It's the official first single I always envisioned for My Wife, though, the video concept we started shooting, probably, won't be possible to complete until 2021.
06. "Plead Insanity:" Can you recall when you wrote "Plead Insanity" and if so, where were you when you wrote it?
DXM: Literally, no memory of writing this one. It didn't have a bassline until it got re-recorded with Doug and Ryan [Hillsinger's] bassline for it is absolutely genius. As for me, the guitar riff is a gift from a God I don't, actually, believe in. I have no memory of writing it, though, the guitar is, probably, a huge Ted Leo homage—I was listening to plenty of Ted Leo in college. Lyrically, this song's fine/servicable/whatever. Musically, I think, almost everyone in the band would agree this is the best DXM song. I can't imagine many reasons to not play it at every show.
07. "House & Home:" "House & Home" seems to be more of the least Pop-punk oriented songs... how would you categorize this song genre-wise?
DXM: Haha, if we're measuring me by Pop-punk, this album, probably, fails a lot of tests; I mean, there's Country songs on this record. You'll notice a pattern here, but I love the music on this one and I'm so-so on the lyrics, which were not the deep-expose of hypocritical Christians that I thought, at the time. It's kind of an Elliott Smith/Bright Eyes pastiche or, at least, my attempt at one. I do love the chorus: "I'm throwing a party and no one's invited / I'll toss back some drinks 'til I'm dead or enlightened" is way more impressive syntax than I usually had in me in 2006. I always felt it deserved a huge epic guitar solo—it's, also, my longest song—and it only finally got that huge, fake-Mike McCready [Pearl Jam guitarist] thing when I re-recorded it with Doug. I had to write that piece-by-piece and I still have to re-figure out what I was playing, so we can do it live.
08. "F**king Loser:" Who else contributed to "F**king Loser"'s recording process(es) and to what capacity for each player?
DXM: Yeah, this one's a dense song—the original recording was way too over-stuffed. Doug—I know this is one of his favorites—made it both breathable and epic. It's got cello thanks to his friend, Jack Carino, who did a great job and all kinds of strange buried guitar loops and synth strings, too. I had a brief fallout with a good friend, at the time, and this song takes a p*ss on him. We're good now. It's, probably, about people using each other, though, I've since written much deeper and more f**ked up songs with that theme.
09. "Pwnd + Stwnd:" So, what do you think Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, and the gang from South Park would think of "Pwnd + Stwnd?" I mean, it's not Disintegration-era Cure, but...
DXM: You think it sounds like The Cure? I think, Kenny would like this song best because I'm not, actually, singing real words in it—took a page from [Pearl Jam frontman] Eddie Vedder's playbook with "Yellow Ledbetter," where the "lyrics" are just word-sounding things. No one loves "Pwnd + Stwnd" more than me because 1.) I played everything on it, 2.) including two(!) guitar solos with f**king wah-wah(!!) in 2006 that I don't think I'll ever replicate and we just grafted those on from the original dorm recording, and 3.) I rip-off OutKast's "The Whole World" (which, itself, ripped the horns off of Depeche Mode's "Policy of Truth")—two songs I love a whole lot more than The Cure, I'm afraid.
10. "Spare Part:" If "Spare Part" were to be featured on a Spotify playlist with like-minded Alt. Country-leaning artists, who would you include and why?
DXM: I wouldn't include Alt. Country artists, except, maybe, Old 97's. I'd want it between Miranda Lambert & Kalie Shorr. But in 2006, I was definitely ripping off [Death Cab for Cutie's] "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" and [Bright Eyes'] "First Day of My Life," which are more "Alt." than "Country." It was very sh*tty of me to ruin "Spare Part" with the phrase, "score some poon," but in keeping with this by being my most obnoxious album, "Spare Part" is intended to make fun of love ballads by taking a heart metaphor to some kind of logical extreme—who needs a heart when "it's no good as a doorstop 'cuz it bleeds over the rug" lol.
The song got revenge on me when we re-recorded My Wife because I wanted to use the original slide parts with a nine-volt battery I'd never be able to re-create, but it turns out, the song was, originally, neither recorded to a metronome or in tune, so I had to manually move every single slide note to fit the new recording and pitch them correctly. Easily, the most manual labor I've ever had to do for a song. Totally worth it, though—it's probably my prettiest song; the first girlfriend I played it for cried. I think, it was the first song I wrote that made my dad take me seriously as a musician.
11. "Girl Who F**king Hates Me:" What made you decide to add cello elements provided by "jack" on "Girl Who F**king Hates Me," a unique element, which has not yet been heard throughout DXM's discography thus far?
DXM: Doug said his friend, Jack [Carino], played cello and I was not going to turn down the opportunity to have cello. "Girl Who F**king Hates Me" is too funny and stupid for me to feel weird about, like "Avril" or "House & Home," but it's another My Wife track that makes me sound like a Men's Rights activist and the joke doesn't land as intended in 2020. But it was a very simple song that got heavily decorated and now, it rules—"Drake" drums, Brittany [Fogel's] backing vocals, the cello, and fading out the Trap beat while fading in my drummer, Pete [Gotta]. While recording this, we learned Pete wasn't familiar with the term "four-on-the-floor." I love Pete.
12. "Better Black Days:" How has the meaning behind a deeply personal song, such as "Better Black Days" changed for you, personally, since writing it in 2006 and releasing it in 2020?
DXM: It's not as personal as "Divorcée," probably, but it's one of my most autobiographical songs. I just remember it came together really easily—the verse chords bite Rilo Kiley's great "Portions for Foxes" and even in 2006, I managed to nail the harmonies, which I was terrible at, and the counter-melodies on the synths under the chorus, which owe my favorite band, Dismemberment Plan. It's both kind of a basic song—all power-chords—and something I managed to write with an effortlessness in 2006 that I'd kill for now. It screams "third single in 1998." I think, it's Pete's favorite DXM song. We have plans for this one.
13. "Good Girls:" What's the intended meaning behind the line, "good girls don't do anything at all..." from nearly 8-minute album closer, "Good Girls?"
DXM: Like "Avril," "Girl Who F**king Hates Me," etc. the gender stuff in this song plays horribly now. My Wife was loosely conceived as a break-up album; it was written as one two-year relationship was dissolving into another that, also, ended up lasting two years. "Admit" was a break-up song with the reveal at the end that I'm singing from the woman's perspective. "Good Girls" has nothing to do with, like, the archetypal "Drake" use of the words "good girl" or some outdated gender role-binary thing. I now know it makes a lot more sense, if you take "girl" out of it—every line is about something exciting that "bad" partners do and the chorus—where "good" ones don't do anything at all, is supposed to be about the perception that healthy partnerships are boring.
Amazingly, I've had a lot of bad, unhealthy partnerships since this song. I learned a lot about stability and red flags in the 14 years between this song being written and released. It, also, has one of my dumbest lines ever—about a scrunchie on your best friend's door? That's total misogyny, so f**king dumb. And with all the light misogyny on this album, that was intended to have a half-a$$ed satirical point-of-view, at the time, that line wasn't part of it, it was just a lazy oversight. I love My Wife, but I'm glad to get my 21-year-old self off my chest. Excited to clear the backlog and contribute songs to the world that have sharper points to make. My 21-year-old self had some riffs, though.