Malek And The Subtle Army

A few years ago I was touring an indie band that did nearly 900 shows in just under five beautifully difficult years. I eventually burned out and found myself alone in a cabin in Woodstock, NY where I wandered the woods for months. Then one day I found a barn full of happy people listening to live music.

The players were led by the legendary drummer Levon Helm and their level of mastery was beyond my comprehension. People came from all over the world for this private experience like it was some kind of spiritual revival. They came to heal from illnesses, remember old times, commune with their heroes, and be inspired in a safe place.

Whatever voodoo they were conjuring must have worked on me because I spent the next couple years trying to recreate that feeling on my own. I didn't have the heart to write songs anymore but I could free jam for hours. Eventually I bought an Edirol field recorder and started to document the jams just in case they might mean something to me someday. After one year I recorded around 850 improvisations and it became obvious to me that there was a very special album buried somewhere in that colossal exercise.

It took three months to listen to all that music as my partners and I looked for moments we dubbed "elusive oohs". We found 250 of them and then reviewed these again looking for the additional element of great lyrics. This narrowed them further to 160 jams. We did one more round of listening to check if there were enough parts for a complete arrangement and what we had left was 70 whole accidental songs hiding proud like Levon's barn. I'm learning them like covers now and this is the basis for the project called "Malek and the Subtle Army". [+]