How it All Began

The Alleged Artist, in a manner inconsistent with everything else he does, has been hard at work lately. From the sounds and odors emanating from within the studio in which we have locked him, we estimate the new album “13” will be completed around the end of May. And yes, that’s this year.

In the mean time, we have decided to package up twenty of the best (a relative term) songs ever composed and recorded by the Alleged Artist, fully remastered and in many cases somewhat remixed. These represent the most faithful rendition of the evolution of Tastiera prior to the album “Stratospheric” in 2007. We have encapsulated them into a two volume set entitled “Origin Story”, with cover art pulled from Pixabay (please note the credit in the caption): the “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula.

Image by SAIF 4 from Pixabay

We will be posting roughly one song per day from “Origin Story”; you can find each one on the “Listen” page. We have also asked the Alleged Artist for his thoughts on each song, which you can find as new posts here.

Enjoy! Or at least, don’t let it ruin your day. And now to the Alleged Artist…

About a month after the last post on this site, my beloved mother passed away, almost reaching the age of 93. My equally beloved father passed away back in 1987, 3 days before my 18th birthday. So the last handful of months have been the first ones in my life without either one of them physically here in this world. The reason I’m leading with this is that I might never have gotten into music without their encouragement, dating all the way back to the photo on the “About” page. My parents bought me an upright piano at the age of 7, and 10 years of lessons from my amazing teacher, Gail Clark. At some point a few years into that stretch, I started composing my own music, albeit incredibly simple-minded.

In 1982, we went on one of our road trips to San Francisco to visit my mom’s relatives, and my cousin had a little Casio keyboard, which I spent most of my free time playing while we were there. My mom saw how much I liked it, so she surprised me with my own Casio for my next birthday in 1983. It didn’t take long before I started building my own recording studio, which consisted of the Casio, an old microphone probably designed for dictating notes, and an evolving series of cassette tape players and recorders. I searched the non-Internet world for ideas for a name, and decided “Cockroach” would be in it, since cockroaches were likely to survive the nuclear war that everybody assumed was right around the corner. I appended “Velvet” merely because I liked how it sounded, and Velvet Cockroach was born.

From 1983 to 1988, there were over a dozen Velvet Cockroach albums, with a cult following of maybe a dozen people. There was even “A Velvet Cockroach Christmas”, which may or may not find its way to this website someday. I still have most of the music on cassette tapes, including the album “End of the Line” from the beginning of 1984, when I was 14 years old. One of the songs on that album was “Total Lobotomy”, and there couldn’t be a better example of the maturity and intellectual complexity of Velvet Cockroach’s early years. Centered around Casio’s “Tango” theme, the song is fairly self-explanatory, and too long by approximately its length. But this is how Tastiera came to be, so there is no other reasonable choice for track 1 of “Origin Story”:

Total Lobotomy (originally recorded in 1984, remixed and remastered in 2004)

“Origin Story” tries to preserve most of these songs in their original form as best possible, making minor tweaks where necessary to make it all flow. One thing that was incredibly prominent in 1980’s Velvet Cockroach and Tastiera was tape hiss. I experimented with various ways to deal with that back then, including of course (for those who remember) Dolby noise reduction, but I felt like it did more harm than good. The modern tools at my disposal blow me away by comparison. My software of choice these days is Apple’s Logic Pro, augmented by Izotope’s Music Production Suite. The latter includes a very good hiss removal plug-in, but even it couldn’t do more good than harm on the first couple of “Origin Story” songs, including “Total Lobotomy”.

Another tool I have found extremely useful during the production of “Origin Story” is the Ultimate Vocal Remover, which does a really incredible job of separating vocals from instruments in audio files. The original “Total Lobotomy” had nothing even close to any kind of effects on the vocals, but with the tools available today, I was able to isolate the vocals, improve their EQ a little, and add a simple delay effect. Logic’s Mastering Assistant and Linear Phase EQ got me into the “Red Zone”, and some hard compression using Audacity got it past the goal line. Welp, that’s all for now, until the next song, which I hear I have to talk about tomorrow apparently.

LYRICS

My doctor, he did shout, get those tonsils out
Well he oughta know, so I thought I’d go
What a bunch of incompetent fools that run that big white shack
There ain’t a single doctor there who ain’t a stinkin’ quack

And I got a total lobotomy – you’d better take back all the things you said about me
Unless you want an everythingectomy, you’d better shape up and be nice to me

By the time that they were through, I didn’t know what to do
They’d shaved off all my hair, and my tonsils were still there
Now I am insane, because I have no brain
So you’d better watch out, or I’ll make you scream and shout

‘Cause I got a total lobotomy – you’d better take back all the things you said about me
Unless you want an everythingectomy, you’d better shape up and be nice to me

One very dark night, after you’ve turned out the lights
I’ll put Kool-aid in your gas tank (hey Kool-Aid!), and pull all sorts of pranks
I’ll get your guard dogs drunk, and quietly open the door
And then I’ll nail your chairs to the ceiling and your chandelier to the floor

‘Cause I got a total lobotomy – you’d better take back all the things you said about me
Unless you want an everythingectomy, you’d better shape up and be nice to me

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