“Knocking Heads” is the first single I’m releasing in my monthly single series for 2018. And it’s come a long way since I wrote it...all the way back in 2013. Along with releasing these songs monthly, I’m going to try and keep up with this blog by giving you some context to the music I’m putting out there. I’ve given that some credence on here in the past, but it’s been recently spurred by how I’m currently consuming music.
I was recently re-gifted a book from my Father that I had given him 2 Christmases ago. That book is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run.”
From what I remember, growing up my parents had five cassette tapes in the car. They were:
It took me a long time to grow out of “this is my parent’s lame music” stage for the first four. However, I’ve grown to love all those artists. But I never dove into “The Boss.” My father received the book, "Born to Run," right as I was starting to pursue my career on the road. As he was reading it, he would talk to me about how he saw similarities between Bruce’s early career playing bars in Asbury Park and what I was doing. I could tell it was helping him relate to the path I was taking. So when he was done, I took the book back. And I’ve been gripped. I’ve been listening to the records as I’ve been reading, and I just got to the recording and touring of “Born to Run” the album. It's been playing in my car non stop the past two weeks. Finally, I actually went to Amoeba music and bought it on vinyl over the weekend. So now it's been playing non stop at home too. It really speaks to me. And a lot of the reason why is that I’m reading about Bruce’s life and what he was going through while he made it. Now, I don’t feel merited to write you an autobiography. But I hope that by writing this blog, I can provide you some insight as to how my songs come about and give them more meaning.
As I said, I originally wrote “Knocking Heads” in 2013. I was living in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio and I had a full fledged recording facility, Electraplay studios, behind my house. I was going through some sort of internal crisis where despite having a recording studio in my backyard, I’d condemned myself to a room in the house to do a lot of my writing and recording. I was going through a lot of tumultuous relationships at the time: my band “The Regrettes” had broken up. I was having a lot of issues with my co-partner in the studio. And I think I’d just gotten out of a weird relationship with a girl who was dating myself and another person at the same time (I was the “other” guy). Anyway, I was having a moment of self reflection where you ask yourself the question: “Is it them, or is it me who’s causing all this chaos?” When things happen all at once, that compounding effect can lead to a lot of insecurities and shifts in the psyche. This song is about the struggle of reconciling those conflicts. Trying to harness the confidence in your decisions and the doubt you have in yourself can be impossible at times. And sometimes the only thing you can do is accept it and move on. I’ve seen plenty of people fall short of their potential by dwelling on that battle, and it makes no sense to let it be the end of ourselves. So writing this song was a way for me to let go of that.
From a technical standpoint I’ll never forget my roommate, Dennis Tanner, entering my fortress of solitude and busting out that chorus rhythm guitar line that gave this song the “Billy Idol” feel it needed (those guitar parts remain on the final recording). I have a specific demo version of this song labeled “Knocking Heads with Derek” from the first time I got Derek Ultican to play bass on it. This was the version of the song that I held in my stash and listened to for a couple of years. I was going through a phase of discovering my “voice” on the demo and for some reason was trying to emulate Morrissey. I played it for some managerial types. They weren’t buying it. You can listen to that demo here:
Anyway, fast forward to 2016. My trusted co-producer, Mike Landolt, and I were going through a bunch of songs I had on my hard drive. We decided to give this one a stab, and boy did it come together. Jeff and Eric, fresh off a couple of tours, came in and laid down some thunderous drums and bass. A little special sauce from my synth guy, Ben Rohletter, moved the track in a more textured direction, and boom. Here it is:
This monthly single series is allowing me to get a lot of music out of my archives. This song took way too long to finish, but I’m glad it’s out there. Next week I’ll have the story of “Correcting a Fool,” which took just as long, if not longer, to finish. Enjoy.