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. 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. 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!