PETER WIX: I have always been a bit of a synesthete. Synesthesia is the condition - or gift - by which stimulation of one cognitive pathway switches on an involuntary secondary sensation or thought-image, a neurological mix and match process that can be fun, most definitely poetic, although occasionally tedious.
Some people will hear a sound, jazz music for example, and think of vinegar. Others see colours as numbers. Reginald Perrin visualised a hippopotamus whenever his mother-in-law was mentioned. This is synesthesia.
I have long associated faces with numbers. This may have come from my childhood, when I paid too much attention to footballers, who then played in shirts numbered successively from 1 to 11. A number five, for example, formerly called a centre-half, had to be tall and would invariably have a square head and a jaw like Desperate Dan, a rocky quiff on short back and sides, a crooked smile that said "dare", and only the brave would. Five is a blocker. Dan could never have been a winger, a 7 or 11. These fleet and sleek individuals who moved in eses with plenty of style and grew their hair down over their ears - the 7s and 11s - would never be very tall, over 5' 11" for example. But they did dare.
Come to think of it, the words fleet and sleek could never be number 5s either, so it looks like I've got word synesthesia too. And perhaps concepts as well, since
feet and inches, a genuinely Disparate Dan (sic) notion, is definitely a 5, whereas metres and centimetres would be a nice even 6, or maybe a two too (or even a tutu, huh?), though never as high, complete and omnipotent as a ten. Being as important as a 10, they would never get around to any menial measuring. By the same notion, English (i.e. feet and inches) is solid, square-headed, unable to roll neat cigarettes and, by association, at least another 5; whereas European (metric), is a nice Alfa Romeo 6, a well turned-out type not out of place in casinos and never clumsy in love.
What fucked-up cognitive pathways, eh?
To make it even more bizarre, my synesthetic tendencies over the past two weeks have been invaded by the characters of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Oh, that is dangerous, I can hear you thinking. Indeed!
I've got cabin fever (that's a 1, for some reason) because I've locked myself up at home to record and mix a whole load of songs for albums that my one day be released, and hopefully soon. Most of it's unfinished stuff I've had for years and which has now driven me half-crazy. Get the picture? Crazy, by the way, is an odd number, or maybe a fraction like 27/3. To compound the weirdness, I got involved in writing about Lynch for the latest issue of Art & Music (David Lynch is a strange number since that hair suits a 5 but there's something between a 4 and that omniscient 10 about him) and, as a result, I've been spending my leisure (a 3 or a 7 respective to UK or US pronunciation) moments soaking up the series Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me.
Do you know the characters involved? If you don't, stop reading. You've probably had enough anyway.
Recording, like most art, requires patience, especially if you are a clumsy perfectionist. If you do it alone, the normal sparky dialogue that occurs between musicians in a room has to be invented in your head. Come to my rescue Twin Peaks. As I lay down tracks or edit guitar takes, apply reverbs and compression, I have been aided by the likes of Special Agent Dale Cooper and little Audrey Horne (she's been my reward if I do something good!).
This is how it works. I lay down a vocal track looking for just the right delivery. No number synesthesia; it's all Twin Peaks. When I get to the end of a take, I know what it's worth by the Twin Peaks character who appears in my head. So far, the evil Bob has not appeared at all, so I must be doing something on the right side of the tracks.
Some characters have made more of an impression on me than others. Laura Palmer herself has been there when I've needed a certain kind of appeal for rare inflections. Unfortunately, her father, Leland Palmer, often turns up when I've given it
too much show business (yes, I know Bob inhabited him but I don't know what it feels like to be Bob and that's not the kind of music I want to make).
A take that is good but doesn't quite make the grade will often be accompanied by a vision of Cooper and Sheriff Harry Truman nodding sagely, as if they have found a clue, and then the Gordon Cole character played by Lynch himself will appear, urging me in his shouty voice to have another crack at it. It may be midnight by then.
When it all goes wrong or I've done something so crap I feel embarrassed about it, I get the feeling I'm both Deputy Andy and the receptionist Lucy. If what I've done is absolutely awful, Richard (Dick) Tremaine is there telling me I've done well. I ignore him and become Pete Martell. You need his humility to keep going at times.
Patience is a virtue but you have to get rough occasionally, even with yourself, if you are going to get something down that will stand the test of time. I wonder if painters go through this. They could be pretty synesthetic, no? A more brazen attitude brings in that smooth talking bastard Jean Renault. "I want this take crucified," I say to myself in a seedy French accent. When there's a struggle, I'll turn into the one armed man, Philip Gerard, usually time to clock off in case I do tear the cable out of the microphone and scream "the arm". I can do that, remember, since no one is here watching…except most of the cast of Twin Peaks.
A touch of romance and I'm James the biker, or I'm inhabited by Donna, or by both. It's one of those 'Falling' R 'n' R moments that Badalamenti and Julee Cruse conjure, and I don't mind going down that neural pathway.
But when it all comes together, when it feels like I've produced a sound that no one can have any reservations about, something sublime perhaps, at least to these ears, where am I but in the Black Lodge, little Mike the dwarf at my side shuffling and slinking around the zigzag floor. There's Laura again, screaming like a banshee. Windom Earle is under control. There's something about that Red Room. It's the synesthetic match for getting there, for arriving somewhere. I am still waiting, though, for Annie. How's Annie? How's Annie? MORE BLOGS BY THIS AUTHOR
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