Behind the songs: Until the End

Another old one, at least musically. 

I first uploaded a (very bad) version of it to the internet in 2006 or so. That one was more space-rock – it had acoustic guitars, vocals, the works. Funnily enough, you could also hear crickets in the background – it was the height of summer when I recorded it, I had no soundproofing at all, and I was terrible at mixing. 

Another version a few years later took that template and improved the arrangement, but this one’s all electronic and has so many new parts it’s almost unrecognisable from its early forms.

And it has no words, ’cause I couldn’t get them to fit this time. Standards have risen and all that.

Behind the songs: Phantom Time

No, this is not a song about being ready for the Phantom. It’s inspired by one of the wildest and grandest conspiracy theories I think I’ve ever come across – that HUNDREDS of years of history are missing.

Yep, the middle ages literally never happened. Supposedly. 

This is an old song too. I wrote it in 2012, and only just got around to polishing it off. Seriously, it’s almost unchanged from the original demo! Just improved the mix, got better at singing, added an intro part so it could merge into the song before it. 

Most of the instruments are literally from the original demo! So in a way, this album’s literally been in the recording phase for eight years… IF THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED! 

Behind the songs: You’re Not Alone

I’m not the kind of guy who writes ‘love’ songs. This is about as close as it gets… and it’s all of about six lines long. 

There was a second verse, but I decided in mixing it didn’t fit sonically, so chucked in a synth. Love them synths. 

I was gonna chuck in more of a solo part before the last chorus, but isn’t that tambourine enough? I thought so after about the 500th listen. 

The huge drums are a bit lo-fi – I liked the sound of them on the demo, but lost the original programming/stems, so just took them as they were, beefed ’em up and there they are.

Behind the songs: Hardly Angels

Each year, I seem to end up writing at least one darkly humorous pseudo-disco song. 

This one was originally penned in 2017, and it’s about how everyone here thinks Asians are bad drivers – when seriously, as a guy who’s spent decades on two wheels (pedal and motor), I know for a fact it’s your basic white dudes who are the country’ biggest menace.

The original title was ‘Death Disco’, but I decided that was a little too on-the-nose, even for me. 

Musically, it relies heavily on the old LM-1 drum machine made famous by Prince. I bought this ridiculously detailed emulation that’s not just a sample set, but replicates the original ’70s hardware in great detail.

Behind the songs: Super VHS

This little musical interlude has its roots in a seven-minute electronic instrumental I recorded almost 20 fucking years ago called ‘Advice Like This’. 

Believe it or not, the original demo was programmed on a PlayStation (an original, not a PS2 or PS1 – the original bulky PlayStation), and I still have the recording. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the whole thing since the day I finished it.

There were some words to the song, they weren’t very good and the melody was dull, so cutting it back to its bare essentials – the chords and bass, essentially – and using it as a musical bridge was a no-brainer.

Behind the songs: Ephemeral

Wrote this one in 2015. It hasn’t changed a lot since the original demo, just got bigger production, better synths and a crazier vocal mix. 

What’s it about? Um, I think it might be about imposter syndrome? It was written very quickly, so whatever exactly was on my mind that day has been lost to time. 

Thoughts are ephemeral, you might say…

Musically, I guess it might be as close as I’ve ever gotten to hip-hop. And probably will ever get, as a middle-aged white dude who doesn’t know much, but knows that would be a bad musical road to go down.

Behind the songs: Superelevator

This one was first written in 2015 or ’16 – I’ve lost the original demo so I’m not sure. It had words and everything, but no amount of my tweaking of the melody could make it work for my voice, so it joined a long list of songs I wrote which initially had words, and ended up just a tune.


It was about the rich getting off the planet, but not the poor, Elysium-style. It was also originally called ‘Superhabitable’ but somewhere along the way I realised that didn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as ‘Superelevator’. Ironic it ended up without any words at all.

Behind the songs: Richard III

I wrote this tune the day they confirmed a skeleton found beneath an English carpark belonged to the English king, Richard III. I woke up planning to write something a bit odd, but needed a topic. Opening up the news that morning, boom – there it was.

Before that day, all I really knew about Richard III was that he had a bad back, was the subject of a song by Supergrass and really wanted a horse. (Honestly, I actually thought he was angry he had already swapped his kingdom for a horse – I never read the play. Turns out it was quite the opposite…)

I really like the weird music I wrote for this one. I’ve heard it more than a thousand times now so it sounds like a straight-up pop song to me, but I’m sure it’s all over the place. I’d love a musicologist to tell me if it fits any conventional melodic/harmonic rules at all, ’cause I wouldn’t have a clue. 

I released a version of this last year which wasn’t quite as well-mixed as the version on the album. If you got that version before it was purged from the internet, replace it with these new mixes, please.

Behind the songs: The Second Amendment

In 2018, I wrote a lot of stripped-back indie-rock songs, many of which ended up on ‘Short Sharp Shocks’. Amidst that burst of writing, I got the urge to write something darker and more dissonant – without any guitars.

This is what resulted.


No, I don’t really love the NRA. It’s one of those ironic things – if I loved the NRA, I wouldn’t write a song saying so that sounded like a bad trip, would I? It’d be more like this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1mlCPMYtPk 

This is how you do an ironic song, Alanis… I fucking hate the NRA. They’re terrorists.

Behind the songs: Surrender When

If you’d told me a couple of months ago this would be the album‘s opening track, I would have thought you were crazy.

For as long as the album was in production – two years, on and off – I considered this song (whose original demo was titled ‘Coronationalisation’ for reasons I can’t remember) the weakest on the record.

(I know it’s heresy for a songwriter to admit a song is weak and then expect others to want to listen to it, but hear me out!)

In late January and early February, I worked on a bunch of new songs and demos, using the opportunity to test different mics, hardware settings, recording chains, etc, to see which would work best with my ill-suited voice. 

Once I’d figured out the best of a bad situation, ‘Surrender When’ was the first vocal I laid down for this new album. I figured I’d start with the weakest track and make my way up, so by the time I got to ‘Tokyo Regret’ I’d pretty much sound like Chris Cornell. 

But this song – simple tune, largely unchanging tone, no challenging melodies – ended up coming out pretty well. Then as work on the album progressed, I had a dilemma on my hands.

You see, as the album’s tracks all flow into each other as one piece, I recorded as many songs as I could in the same DAW session (that’s like, the musician’s equivalent of a single spreadsheet or a single Word document). I ended up with two sets of six songs that could not be separated. 

‘Surrender When’ was meant to open the second half of the album. But the songs attached to it also came out pretty well, while I was struggling with the songs meant to go on the first half… a problem I solved by just switching the two sides. This way, the better recordings could go on the first half, and the better songs on the second… I think? 

Anyway, as for ‘Surrender When’, I really don’t know what it’s about. I wrote it in 2014. It reads like a surreal boast of military superiority? Then there’s that odd Spanish bit which just sounded good at the time. 

And yes, that dissonant harmony is deliberate. Not a mistake. I tried so many note combinations, and that’s the one I kept coming back to. That’s how writing music works, sometimes. It’s out of my control.