Added: June 21, 2004
The Will To Death is an album of songs, some of them were written just prior to the recording sessions and some were written as long as three years ago. A few of them are some of my favorite songs I have written. Those are: Loss, The Mirror, The Days Have Turned and The Will to Death.
The most important thing for me at the time of this record was to make sure it was spacious and that the overdubs (if any) were subtle. I had just done what was for me a "big production record" which was what I needed to do at that time, to balance out my previous records.But now making a record that was raw was very important to me. It was also important to me to record it quickly and to lower the bar of perfection I had raised so high for "Shadows". I think at the time of Shadows I was so excited about doing a record in a real recording studio and I was so sick of people dismissing my records as being fucked up and un-professional. On Shadows, I wanted everything exactly the way I heard it in my head. But after that album, I started noticing that albums I had loved my whole life had tons of things I would have (at the time) insisted upon re-doing. Slightly off pitch vocals, instruments going slightly out of time with one another, as well as straight-up-mistakes-all of these things prevail triumphantly on Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Rolling Stones, Van Der Graaf Generator, Butthole Surfers and countless other records (even The Beatles)that I have always loved. I had always perceived those records as being pure perfection and when I realized that I had sharpened my sense of perfection to the point where, were they under my supervision, those records would have been cleaned up to the point of being inferior. I realized that I needed to re-evaluate what perfection meant to me. I figured out that when a recording session is focused on, and a flow of energy goes from the second you walk in until you leave, and you know the songs well, there is a good vibe and some laughs, the imperfections that appear are very desireable and the right number of them spaced out well, is one of the most beautiful types of perfection there is. So on this record I became more comfortable with welcoming things that were unintentional, rather than making sure everything was exactly as I had intended.
Approaching, things this way, along with not being intimidated by the studio, has made it possible for me to record very quickly. Hence, I have recorded a new album every moth this year. The Will To Death is the first one. For me it has a very free relaxed feeling to it because it was the first time that Josh and I realized how great of a feeling it is to record in a studio when you are fast and efficient and relaxed. While recording the basic tracks ( drums and guitar) we were sometimes so sure that our first take was good, that we'd move on to the next song without even listening to playback. It is such a great memory and it started us on a roll.
It should be noted that The Will To Death is not representative of the other records that will follow. They are all very different from one another. The recordings took a big step up on Emptiness which will be the fourth release. I am very proud of The Will To Death, but once you have heard all of the records, you will realize that Josh , Ryan (our engineer) and I were just getting our feet in terms of finding our own style of recording and breaking away from the current trends in the recording of rock music.
After that, we started getting together with Joe Lally who had recently moved to L.A.. He has always been one of our favorite bassists and we asked him if he would like to join us for two Performance shows at The Knitting Factory. Originally we were going to play songs from Shadows and The Will To Death, but I felt like that was a waste of Joe's talents and a waste of this opportunity to create music with someone I consider to be one of the best. We started discussing what to do and we decided to do something inspired by early PIL where the bass lines were repetitive and hypnotic and the drums and guitar were exploratory. for the next couple of weeks music played us. The songs seemed to come out of nowhere.
We would record rehearsals and at night I would write vocals over my favorite pieces. We liked what we were doing so much that we decided to book studio time. We recorded for two days, then played two shows, then recorded for two more days. We recorded ten songs which came to over an hour and a half of music. It will be released in two halves. The first half will contain five songs totaling forty five minutes and will be released August 5 2004. It was a very exciting album to record. I did most of my vocals live while we were tracking the guitar, bass and drums. If you listen close there are times that you can hear my unamplified guitar coming through my vocal mic, like Joe Strummer’s did on the first Clash record. There are so many wonderful moments that could have never happened had we recorded any other way. Josh’s drumming was out of this world. He would keep the feeling alive for what was sometimes twelve minutes and not only would he never miss a beat but he would carry us to so many different places. I must say that all three of us never really let up. I had never felt so charged with such a strong sense of abandonment in the studio. Consequently this album contains some of the most out of control guitar playing I have ever done on an album.
The DC EP was recorded in Washington DC at Inner Ear studios. It is owned by Don Zientra and it is where Fugazi and most of the other Discord artists record. My friend Ian Mackaye had been encouraging me to come out and record and I had been wanting to do these songs with Jerry Busher playing drums. I first met Jerry in the spring of 1999 at the same time I met Fugazi. He was their tech as well as playing the second drum set on some songs. He is one my favorite drummers. He is in currently in a group called French Toast (with James Canty of the Make Up) and he has another group called The All Scars. The sessions were produced by Ian. It was interesting for me to leave a lot of the production- type ideas to someone else. Even though we recorded and mixed four songs in two days, it was a very relaxed session and more like a vacation than work. Ian is one of the main living people who I really respect and look up to, so it was an honor and a pleasure as well as a great learning experience to hear his perspective. It was also interesting for me to do a recording without any of my equipment (the lesson being that it still sounds like me). For the solos I borrowed Guy Picciotto’s Les Paul Junior from the Rites of Spring days. This guitar was played through Ian’s Marshall head that is pictured on the cover of Fugazi’s Red Medicine. This EP is also unique in that it is the only album I have done in the last five years with no synthesizer whatsoever. Jerry, Ian and I all hope to make more music together.
This letter will be continued in a couple of months when it is closer to the time of the release of Emptiness. All my love and thanks to my fans for being exactly who you are, in every way. The best is yet to come."
- John Frusciante (June 2004)