After many years of struggle to survive the recession and making huge personal sacrifices to please the US immigration system in order to be with the woman I love, I have finally been able to make the time to make new music.
In 2017 I began writing new songs and instrumentals and recorded and released a single called Magical Markets and Magical Mules. My wife, who is Tunisian, went home for a family visit and I was meant to complete a new album in her absence, between my long and unpredictable shifts as a concrete mixer driver in the mountains and deserts, military bases and construction sites of Otero and Lincoln Counties in Southern New Mexico.
When she returned, we were supposed to begin planning our move to the East Coast in order to make regular trips to Tunisia more affordable, but a cruel tragedy brutally changed everything.
In February 2018, on the night after my wife’s birthday, she and her sister were nearly killed in a severe auto collision in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth. They were both passengers in a friend’s car who had stopped at a red-light. The car they were in was struck from behind by a speeding vehicle. My wife Nesrine suffered a spinal injury which made her paraplegic and several broken ribs which caused her heart to stop at one point, narrowly escaping death. Her sister Jasmine was immediately thrown into a coma due to a head injury, a coma which would last for two months and so many parts of her femur, pelvis and hips were so badly shattered that as I write this, more than a year and a half later, she is still bedridden, even after multiple surgeries which included removing an infected part of her femur and a subsequent bone graft.
This is why my album wound up being (mostly) recorded in a bedroom in Tunis.
Needless to say, I had to quit my job, give up my car and bank account, give away most of my belongings, take my most precious things like family photos, personal documents, CD collection, books, guitars and grandfather’s art to my mother’s house for safe storage and get on the plane to Tunis to be by my wife’s side.
Among the items I packed were the four years of love letters Nes and I sent each other when immigration laws and economic problems kept us apart, the TASCAM digital 8 track I planned on making my new album with, and a copy of my favorite book Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches by Marvin Harris. Unfortunately, Turkish Airlines lost my suitcase and after 6 months of their games I finally gave up on the compensation that they obviously never intended to give me.
All of this made me even more determined to NOT give up on my musical project. The more obstacles you throw in my way, the more angry, stubborn and defiant I become and the more determined I am to accomplish my goals or destroy everything in my path trying to.
I cashed out my large amount of accumulated unused vacation pay so I had a little money besides the funds raised for the girls’ emergency healthcare needs on Go Fund Me, which allowed me to buy a very inexpensive acoustic guitar from a shop in Tunis, Tanglewood from the UK.
The months that followed were exhausting, enraging, sad, confusing, frustrating, but above all full of pain and uncertainty for what the future would bring. I kept writing and composing on that little acoustic guitar and recorded a solo guitar improvisation on my cellphone under an orange tree in the yard of my wife’s grandmother.
Finally after more than year of street noise, screams of pain, lack of privacy and lack of a decent microphone ha made recording an album impossible, I sought out a used USB connected microphone that would allow me to make the only kind of album possible under such circumstances, simple, no overdubs, live in the room, primitive, recorded in little one and two hour breaks that would happen with weeks or even months between.
In the end this tortuously drawn out and unpredictable process gave me more time to fine tune my compositions and my lyrics, but also meant that the recordings came out much rougher and in places harsher on the ears than I had intended. The vocals in Atheists in Mecca and the percussive low register instrumental sections of the title song are good examples of this harshness. But maybe if it can be said that I can be more aggressive with a solo acoustic guitar than most metal, punk, or noise bands achieve with all those effects boxes and amplifiers, that perhaps I’m on to something…or off my rocker.
These sessions involved me waiting nervously for short (and rare) periods of time in which to work alone in a quiet house, recording both guitar and voice through one microphone. Everything was recorded in our bedroom in my wife’s parents’ apartment in Tunis, except for one song which was recorded on the TASCAM in our apartment in Alamogordo, New Mexico and one which was recorded in a hotel room in Tunis.
In the end I wound up with about 28 tunes and decided that they would make two better separate focused albums than one long scattered brained sonic spasm. So they were divided into an album of political songs: Between the Droughts and the Floods and an album of instrumentals: The Future’s as Bright as a Dying Star…which will be released soon but is available to pre-stream in rough mix form on my Bandcamp page.
On the instrumental album everything is also live, essentially dual mono, except for the opening and closing pieces which are multi-track and stereo and everything was recorded in our bedroom in Tunis, except for the piece recorded on my cellphone in the yard of my wife’s grandmother and another piece recorded at the hotel in Tunis.