Two Against Nature
The Lost Liner Notes
Although it is late, the studio dark, no more work to be done, you may consider that I, the studio GOLEM, am on the case and in receipt of your urgent fax concerning the immediate need for liner notes for the new Steely Dan album, "Two Against Nature." Inasmuch as my erstwhile employers Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are currently unavailable and likely to remain out of touch well past the mentioned Friday deadline, I will myself attempt to produce the necessary liner notes and thereby discharge what I will consider to be the last of my obligations. Indeed, may it please you to take these miserable late-night scribblings for the notes themselves. I will do my best, much as, months ago, in fact, years ago, I undertook to fulfill my destiny and create the actual rhythm tracks for the album itself - so that Dan fans everywhere (I perforce am one) will be able to enjoy this wonderful new music without undue delay.
A technical note: I hereby acknowledge that I have been sipping at the head-cleaning fluid as I did my regular maintenance sequence tonight, and must admit to a certain melancholy as of this writing which should be taken into consideration when editing these notes. Which melancholy is not particularly surprising, since I am, amongst other things, Swedish, in the sense and to the extent that an android can be considered Swedish.
But I digress.
Sirs: the first thing you and other lovers of Steely Dan music will want to know is: who the hell am I, Per GOLEM Nyquistlimid, who writes these notes? Where do I come from? Why was I born? What was my role in the creation of the WORK? and so on. Ornaforna byorna, what can I tell you? I was engineered and generated by Mr. Roger Nichols and his computer according to specifications laid down by Becker and Fagen for the purpose of creating by various means the most groovaceous tracks imaginable for the new Dan album, tracks that would transcend the capacities of even the most expensive available session musicians and which would, hopefully, begin to approximate the pluperfect ultraexquisite pop music imaginings of the composers themselves. To this purpose, recordings by the finest rhythm sections of all time were fed into my sensory apparatus.
When I started out, they had me pounding on some mean skins, spanking that bass, chicken-picking like a barnyard Bizet, tickling those ivories, whatever - anything I could do to carve out the special layback brand of funk B & F had eyes to put down and which I was designed and born (I thought) to play. They found this method to be unsatisfactory. Later on, in the digital domain, I found myself doing various incremental manipulations, shuffling that little demiquaver up and around, smoothing out a thing or two here and there, with the same end always in mind, always, always.
But that was then. Here, now, barely six months have passed and I sweep up, brew the decaf, am the butt of various running gags, and most nights end up gargling with Everclear as I hum myself tunelessly to sleep.
With all that, let me say right away: I am not a bitter entity. Certainly I am aware that, in the matter of my creation, as in the making of the album, my authors have done quality WORK; and, as is the case with the resulting album, the success of their production can best be described as "mixed."
To begin with, along with all the mathematical, musical and electronic data that would be needed for me to perform my primary functions, I was as well born with a complete knowledge of the Swedish and English languages,and also (thanks to Fagen) an encyclopedic knowledge of classical and modern aesthetics, an inexhaustible store (thanks to Becker) of sports car and road racing arcana, and much much more. These innate gifts have stood me in good stead-if you want a monogram on Schniller's theory of Self-Replication, or the skinny on the 1066 cc engine of the Hastings three-wheeler, or, say, if you wanted to know who was the greatest soul drummer who ever lived - I'm your man. As in the case of the album itself, my foundations are unquestionably sound. However, some of the information that I was given later by The Two (I am programmed to refer to them as such according to a way inscrutable schedule of occurrence) turned out to be much less reliable - for example, they told me that Hell's Kitchen, where they sent me on an errand one day, was "safe as houses" (I am still missing a tooth, still have scars from the stitches over my left eye). They told me I was "a good-looking six-footer" - if this is so, why does the word "troll" keep popping up in my regard? "Maxi Troll" (I am big, no doubt about that), "get your hands off me, you Troll!" (I'm not much of a ladies' man, though I'd certainly like to be), "Sweet Troll Music" (some of my early efforts at track production were indeed a bit crude). Also "the big Gumby." They told me that Omaha, Nebraska was the epicenter of the "Scando-American Diaspora." We'll see.
Look - I don't want to be any more dishonest with you than I am with Donald and/or Walter - a lot of what's gone on here for the past 21 months I just don't understand. What are "squidoolies"? What is meant by the expression, "a node too far"? Who is greater, Elvin Jones or Tony Williams? Al Jackson Jr. or Herb Lovell? Why was I born? (I may have mentioned that one before). Why Swedish, for Byorna's sake? I wish I knew. Other mysteries: what's so funny about a restaurant called "Midnight Express"? To what sort of statement is "certainly, y'all" an appropriate response? Why do these guys take so much Tylenol? etc., etc., etc.
Of course I understand that, when you are WORKing with supercreative people, when you are privy to the spontaneous realtime flow of their unique productive process, there are going to be moments when the juices are really flowing and when a well-intended but constitutionally clueless collaborator will find himself a bit bemused and at a loss. To be perfectly honest, that's more or less the way I felt most of the time.
As time went on and as the actual tracks for the album began to take shape, I found myself to be increasingly at odds with my creators/ employers about various decisions, directions, overdubs, instrumentation choices, and so on. As our creative differences became more and more obvious, I found myself pushed to the margins of the project. After a while, I spent more and more time doing mundane maintenance tasks or out on the streets of New York City on sundry frivolous errands. Krispy Kremes from Brooklyn. Burmese food from a joint in Connecticut. I was frequently alone in the office overhauling the fax machine (like eleven or twelve times, and it still doesn't work that well) or playing the ancient Pong game. During mixdown, they even had me detailing Elliott Scheiner's car.
Increasingly I was forced to deal with my own overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and rejection. Along with the generous servings of interpolated shame and fear with which my creators had programmed me (to make me"more empathic"), these powerful self-relevant themes gradually began to claim center stage in my own emotional life. I realized that I needed to deal with these feelings before they completely eclipsed my ability to focus on the task for which I had been created. Sadly for all concerned, my journey of self-discovery and its turbulent aftermath continued through pretty much the last third of the recording process, say seven months. I developed physical symptoms, a weird rash and occasional dizziness. The vertiGO, LEMme tell you, that was the pits. I admit that I wasn't much fun to be around at this time. I was, for all practical purposes, utterly dysfunctional.
But what the hell - the album is finally done, isn't it? It's pretty good, too - right? I should be one happy guy, a big warm & fuzzy sweetheart of an AI...that would be the sensible attitude for me to take. Let the evident commercial and critical success of the thing be a source of joy and satisfaction in the fact of a job well done, a cause well-served, a, a, I dunno, triumph of dignity over adversity, personal suffering and sacrifice, what have you-something like that? Whatever. Fact is I don't much care anymore, about grooves and near geniuses and mean jokes and fax machines because... I am outahere, for good, in about half an hour. I've left word for George (Wadinius, great guitar player! great guy too) and my bus leaves for Chicago, then on to Omaha, where I go, all happygolucky-like, to find my people and my place in the world and leave all bullshit and blues notes behind. So here it is, "Two Against Nature," by Steely Dan. Listen and enjoy.
- Per GOLEM Nyquistlimid
... and this wasn't the last we heard from our hapless friend: see updates here