Mohair: My Hollywood Songwriting Challenge

As a photograph it was fine, but I never liked this as an album cover. But she paid for it.

PROLOGUE
In late 1996, I met a singer / dancer named Ruby Cassidy. The day after we met, we started working on writing songs for our 8-song album, The Mystic Dancer. [SoundCloud]

The album was produced by Jimmy Hunter, and we recorded at his studio [CAZADOR] in Hollywood, California. Jimmy is known for his drumming, music production, writing, keyboards, vocals, and more. He’s a truly talented person.

Ruby and Jimmy, in a press release in Music Connection. [March 31, 1997]

The recording and production process was a great experience. This project was the first to be recorded on his new ProTools set-up, as Jimmy worked to convert his studio to this format from 2″ 24-track tape in late 1996 and early 1997.

We even had some great studio musicians come in, including Steve Caton of Tori Amos on lead guitar, and the late Bobby Birch of Elton John on bass.

Every situation has its moments, especially for Autistic adults. Overall, it was good. But there was one problem with the entire situation, and that problem was that Ruby was a shady player. I stayed in denial about this for a long time, and even tried to befriend her again, which was a big mistake.

Ruby got the master tape from Jimmy and then told him off. She would later do the same to me. Basically, we were both used and dumped. At least Jimmy got paid and I had a professional reel of my work.


THE SONGWRITING CHALLENGE
After we were unceremoniously dumped by Ruby, I continued to help Jimmy around the studio for a while.

One day, things were just kinda blah. It was a bummer of a day, and I cannot remember why.

We were sitting in his Control Room, where most of the work happens. While I could mention anything else in the room, there was one thing that became the focal point of this challenge.

Jimmy had a calendar on the wall. This calendar featured very tasteful photographs of female models. The model for that particular month was wearing almost nothing, and was covered up with a mohair sweater, while holding a cigar.

Remember that image.

I can’t remember what it was that Jimmy said, but I felt the need to bring some positivity to the room. It wasn’t like him to NOT be positive, so this may very well have prompted me.

Below is our discussion:

ME: It’s getting better.

JIMMY [points at calendar]: She’s getting better.

ME: I like her sweater.

JIMMY: Mohair! Mohair!

As Jimmy is pointing his finger at the woman in the calendar, he turns his hand to point his finger at me, as he declares, “Songwriting challenge! Make that a song! Do it! I bet you can’t.”

The way I took it, the challenge would mean that I’d have to write the song, record the song, and release the song. Challenge accepted!


SONGWRITING BEGINS
We ended our day on a positive note.

As I drove home, the conversation stuck in my mind. I didn’t even have to write it down. I was humming and singing in the car without even thinking about it.

When I got home, I went upstairs to my humble home studio and sang a few things into the 4-track before going to bed.

The next day, I went up and started working on the song.

Two hours later, I had something.


DRAFTS AND FIRST USAGE
The song would go through a few drafts over the first six weeks. Eventually, I showed the third draft to a playwright named Angus “Mac” MacDonald.

Cover of a playbill for the 2005 performance of “In The Chips.”

Mac and I had a history of about 10 years at that point. I had helped him in 1987 with a live production of his musical, “The Golden Fleece.” After that, he and I sat down one night and wrote a musical called “In The Chips,” which tells the story of a woman finding her professional way in a man’s world, within a man’s world, as a computer programmer in the Military Industrial Complex.

Mac heard the song and asked me if he could use it in the musical. At this point, all I had was demo-grade recordings that I had made at home. All the same, he said that he could work with them.

As I type this in 2021, my understanding is that “In The Chips” is still being re-worked in various live productions in small theaters in Los Angeles


ENTER NOODLE MUFFIN
In the early 2000s, I joined a band by the name of Noodle Muffin. I originally signed on as the drummer, but have since played both drums and bass live [and guitar for an encore performance]. In recording, I have played drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, banjo, and other instruments.

Noodle Muffin promo photo.
Operation Regime Change

I had joined the band just in time for the start of their promotion campaign for their album, “Magnum Dopus.” After that, we recorded TWO political albums, one for each term held by George W. Bush.

The music was fun, and the lyrics were overall very cool. However, I knew in the back of my mind that using politics as a scaffold for music would mean that it would end up being dated.

Long Live the Spin

Don’t get me wrong! I am proud of my work on these albums, and I still listen to a few of the songs, but I would guess that most people are not interested in listening to songs about George W. Bush today.

By the end of the second album, I was more than eager to move into recording something that was apolitical in nature. So imagine my excitement when we started working on a new album.

Rehearsal of “Christian Taliban” for a live performance [with backing tracks], possibly my favorite song from those two albums.

A nice daily reminder of achievement.

KARMIC BITCHSLAP
Karmic Bitchslap was a huge relief for me, because it was my third album with the band, and my first where the songwriting was not constrained to one topic.

We had a major recording session in a house in Port Hueneme, California. While we were there, recording tracks, it suddenly hit me.

I can submit “Mohair” to be a track on this album!

So I brought it up with the primary owners of the project, DJ G2S and Major Noize. After playing the song for them, Major Noize said, “Damn, that’s awesome. Are you sure you want this on the album? It’s your ace in the hole. Are you sure?”

Calling my song “my ace in the hole” was a high compliment. The three of us agreed, and we began working on the song that night.

I tracked the drums, then the bass, then a few guitar passes before adding vocals. DJ G2S added some keyboards, backing vocals, and a new section with a lead vocal, which he performed himself.

We considered a guitar solo, but quickly ditched that in favor of a keyboard break.

The DJ G2S vocal performances are powerful on the SuperVerse, with a falsetto on the build-up to that. The part that DJ G2S wrote and sang over is something I call a SuperVerse. It’s like a verse, but pumped up. It’s also a term that I made up, as it is difficult to describe this song using standard music terminology.

My vocals are about as goofy as possible, so that nobody mistakes this song for anything serious. The way I pronounce the words almost makes the words unimportant. I sound like I had dental surgery, with my tongue stuck to the bottom of my mouth with peanut butter.


“Don’t bore us… get to the chorus!” –Dave Grohl

A HIGHLY UNIQUE SONG STRUCTURE
Most songs follow a very clear and almost-required format that looks something like this: Intro / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Solo / Bridge / Chorus / End Fade.

In most cases, it is the CHORUS that holds the most power. It has the hook, and the repetitive lyrics that draw people in. The Chorus is what sells the song, and in most cases it determines whether or not the song will be a hit.

Mohair has a different structure: Intro / Verse / Intro Riff Repeat / Verse / Bridge / Guitar Riff Break / Keyboard Break / Build to SuperVerse / SuperVerse / Bridge / Main Riff / Fade Ending

The thing that is missing is the CHORUS! The most important part of a song is nowhere to be found.

Some could argue that my verse is actually a chorus, but then there would be no verse!

THE RELEASE OF “KARMIC BITCHSLAP”
The band had used Google Wave to collaborate on the album art, the production of which was headed up by DJ Brontosaurus.

Every single detail of the album was handled in a meticulous and professional manner.

When I got my copies, I tore the shrink wrap off one of them and opened it up to take a look. It was absolutely beautiful.

I put the CD in my player and continued looking at the jewel case artwork.

Then I flipped the jewel case over to look at the back. There was my song, Mohair, at the track 10 slot on the album.

TIME SPENT ON THE SONG
I wrote the first draft in 1997 and worked up to a third draft by that point.

The song was released on the album in 2011.

Overall, it took me 14 years to give the song a proper release.

JIMMY, IF YOU ARE READING THIS
I suspect that Jimmy challenged me to do the song because he wanted me to record the song in his studio. The song was probably ready to go by the third draft, and I’m sure that Jimmy would have worked with me on the first draft to create something special.

The biggest problem for me, when it came down to this unspoken idea, was that I was flat broke. My son was born in April of 1995 and I was financially struggling to take care of him. My son never did without, but I had to do without, and that included not spending my own money in a recording studio. Not that I had enough in the first place.

Had I been able to record the song with Jimmy, I am certain that it would have turned out to be a significantly different song. It definitely would have been a great song, all the same.

And when I started working with Noodle Muffin, they called the shots on how and where to record. They had [and still have] their own recording facility and equipment, and they get incredible results. Hats off to Ira Ingber, who mixed and mastered the album.

So although I could not afford to record this song in Jimmy’s studio, I enthusiastically accepted his songwriting challenge and made it happen!


IN THE END
I don’t know if you thought that I’d write about the song without sharing the song so that you could hear it. That would be cruel and almost pointless.

With all that, I present to you… a song that represents my passion for music and my appreciation for a solid song challenge. I give to you: Mohair

Mohair
Written by DrumWild and DJ G2S
Recorded and released by Noodle Muffin

LYRICS:
WOOOOOOOO!
She’s getting better
She’s getting better
I like her sweater
Mohair! Mohair!
[repeat]

[break]

WOOOOOOO!
She’s getting better
She’s getting better
I like her sweater
Mohair! Mohair!
[repeat]

And I want it
When I see you there
And you flaunt it
And I wanna stare
And I want it
Want it right down there

[Break]

I really dig you [I really dig you]
I really dig you [I really dig you]
I really dig you in the mohair sweater [in the mohair sweater]
I really dig you in the mohair sweater [I really dig you.. WOOOOO!]

I really dig the way you look in leather
With a mohair sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
[repeat]

And I want it
When I see you there
And you flaunt it
And I wanna stare
And I want it
Want it right down there

She’s getting better
I like her sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
She’s getting better
I like her… sweater

I really dig the way you look in leather
With a mohair sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
[repeat/fade]

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

7 thoughts on “Mohair: My Hollywood Songwriting Challenge

      1. My pleasure, mate. Sure brings back lots of sweet memories. The thing is, once you’ve created something that’s published, in any form, it becomes part of an ever-expanding archive that can be accessed, referenced and enjoyed for years to come. Now, ain’t that something?

        Liked by 1 person

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