As I mentioned in last week's pick of the week, when I'm recording music before I have any idea about the lyrics, I have to come up with a project name, and often pull it out of thin air. When I wanted to record the idea for this song, back in October 2007, it just so happened that earlier in the week I'd been watching a live broadcast of a speech by the Dalai Lama just down the road at Cornell. While I'd watched I'd been practicing fast finger-picked arpeggios like the repeated figure in this piece. image of the Dalai Lama laughing at Cornell, from Robert Barker, Cornell University Photography, from an article at The Dalai Lama had talked about the difference between human animals and meat-eating animals, how meat-eating animals have claws and fangs, but we have nails, and smiles, and hugs. I'd been thinking about that, so I named the project "fangs nails smiles hugs".

When I recorded the guitar parts, I named the tracks after those words: "fangs" = distorted and tremoloed tapped arpeggios; "nails" = clean, fast, finger-picked arpeggios; "smiles" = doubled Em chord drone, "hugs" a harmony arpeggio (that clashes with the piano a touch), plus "goof", a lead guitar solo. A few days later, I muted the "goof" lead track and recorded the "lead" track that features over-the-top distortion, and somewhat crazed lead playing. I preferred this lead as it somehow really captured a release, a subconscious trip, a transcendence for me. It fit. This ended up on the instrumental 2010 album cymbal monkeys.

I think the first note of the lead guitar, starting about 40 seconds in, is the longest sustained note I've ever recorded. It fed back in the studio monitors as I played and it just sang and sang and sang as I reveled in disbelief, for about 15 seconds just shimmering and shining there. closeup photo of Andy tapping on his Strat This might seem like a self-indulgent guitar-wanker song, it might do something for you, I don't know. Part of the mystery and beauty of music is also how it affects each of us differently. And at the same time it can bring people together in a big shared feeling.

We are all one human family, brothers and sisters!


Photo of Dalai Lama by Robert Barker, Cornell University Photography