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Notes from Michael

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“What About Me?”
written and arranged by Michael League
transcribed by Chris McQueen
recorded on We Like It Here, GroundUP Music / Ropeadope Records 2014
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I’ve noticed that as time goes on, I tend to write slow tunes more often than uptempo
ones. In an attempt to avoid having We Like It Here turn into Ballad Fest 2014, I dug into
my IPhone’s voice memo library and found something I recorded on guitar a few months
previous.
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It was the intro to “What About Me?” - a really guitaristic, Wayne Krantz-ish sound bite
that could have lent itself to either a funky tune or something a little more rock. The
result, I would say, is in the middle, as each section of the song digs into a different bag
of influence.
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I was staying at the Shofukan Japanese Cultural Center of Rotterdam at the time (Lingus,
Shofukan, and What About Me? were all composed or finished there), and I was listening
to a lot of different music, from Tunisian to classical to everything in between. Strangely,
the main point of influence for each section in this song seems to come from my
childhood, or at least college years.
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As I said, the intro feels like Wayne Krantz’s trio (especially the broken drum/bass
interplay) during the Carlock/Lefebvre era. The verse reminds me a bit of Prince or Maze
rhythmically, but something else I can’t put my finger on harmonically. Letter C has been
compared to Led Zeppelin, which I totally don’t hear, but can’t really deny considering
that I spent five years of my teenage life basically only listening to them. Letter E
probably comes from my over-listening to Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Heartcore, with its
interconnected but angular melodic and harmonic motion (I wrote this whole tune on
guitar, so the Krantz/Zeppelin/Rosenwinkel glimmers make sense). Letter G, or the
chorus as I think of it, is probably the funniest reference… when I was explaining how it
should be played in rehearsal with the guys, the track I played for them was Stone Temple
Pilots’ “Sour Girl,” my favorite song of theirs. It has such a unique feel for a pop tune!
Half-time drums with an eighth-note, muted bassline. Crazy stuff. I miss high school.
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In playing this tune, make sure that letter B (the verse, as I think of it) doesn’t default to a
standard backbeat. We tried this in rehearsal first and it made the whole section feel really
lame. I think the broken groove really makes it swim in a funky way.
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The subtlety of Sput’s drum pattern in letter C is what really makes the section feel great.
He and Nate slaved over that decision for about 30 minutes during the rehearsal, trying to
find the exact, perfect pattern that would acknowledge the groupings of 5 without losing
the backbone of 4/4.
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As a sidenote, for those of you who own the DVD We Like It Here, check the bonus
footage for an alternate take of Larnell Lewis’ drum solo. The first night of tracking, I
counted it off about 25 clicks too fast… and that thing stayed right there the whole song.
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As for the story behind the title, I’ll give you the PG version. We had just played a gig in
Liverpool, UK, at Kazimier. I was in my 6th day of Noro Virus affliction (which is
basically a flu on steroids) during its epidemic over there, so I was quarantined in a
bedroom that had been meant to sleep two of us. Without the extra space, one guy was
left to have to sleep on the floor. This unenviable position was left, of course, to the last
guy to come back that night after the post-gig hang. I was sound asleep in a fever coma at
about 4:00am when I awoke to someone screaming their lungs out upstairs. All that I, or
anyone else, on the block heard for about 15 straight minutes, was “Really? Really?!
What about me, ************? What about ME?!”
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So there ya go. In this band, if you want a bed, or even a couch, go to bed early.
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Off-the-page stuff to try:
1) Try it at a much slower tempo. The B and C sections get really, really funky
when played slowly.
2) Come up with a groove for the solo section that transitions nicely from the
chorus to the hits behind the solo.
3) Reprise the end of the song with the chorus. We do this sometimes and it
seems to work.
4) During the drum solo, remove certain notes from the groove to create
interesting spaces. It’ll change the feel of the whole section.