Carla Diratz: Dave sent me that piece of music «just for you to listen». It was already titled "Bataclan" because he had composed it on the same night he heard the news of the awful events. I immediately and deeply felt the urge of writing and singing something...call it an opportunity for me to get a part of the pain off my chest and give an homage to the victims. Knowing this tragedy took place in an area, a boulevard, where I hang out quite often. When I first heard Mark's guitar solo it went right into my heart as into the heart of the subject (I feel). In memory.
Dave Newhouse: Actually, "Bataclan" was an untitled composition without a home. I liked the melancholy nuance of it and invited Mark Stanley over to the studio to record his two solos. I had thought I'd put it on the second Manna/Mirage album, "Rest of the World", but it ended up sitting around without a title for a while. Then Bataclan happened, and I knew where the composition was destined to go. I had just met Carla, and we had recorded our first song together and we were both loving how it came out. I sent it over to her with the new title and asked her if she could write some lyrics about Bataclan and sing to it. I think it was difficult for her - it was just too close time-wise as well as location-wise (I remember PMing her the night that it happened. It was very near to where she lived and she was worried about her daughter, Iris, who was out clubbing.), but she rose to the challenge. I think it was cathartic for her. Bret was the atmosphere it needed at the end. Mark's guitar solos on this still make me cry every now and then. And I love my son, George's, drumming on it.
2) "A Bout de Souffle" / (Breathless)
CD: My very first collaboration with Dave after he asked me if I'd be interested in singing one song as a guest on his following solo record. I was so very excited and/but felt quite nervous. The idea being not to deceive him ... I was crazy about his keyboards opening the song, so the lyrics and the singing came up in the most natural way. (and Dave liking it a lot, I was able to fully breathe again...)
DN: This was the song that I wrote specifically for Carla to sing. Our first song together. I knew she could breathe some life into it. It was our prototype to see if we jelled. (We did!) At the same time, David Bowie had just passed. I think both Carla and I were thinking of this mortal coil and how brief our lives are and how quickly our musical heroes seem to be passing on at such young ages. As Carla mentions above, this was originally going to be the last song on the second Manna/Mirage album, but then Bret came on board and we became a band and, well...it had to go on the DIRATZ album.
Bret Hart: When Dave sent me an MP3 of the bare bones of this song, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this proto-band. The song was asking me to pick up my guitar and play something solo as though we were on stage together. My parts here are very nearly the same riffs I improvised that day. A week later I had studio time booked for my 'Tick Treatment' project @ Benjy Johnson's Earthtones Studio and recorded a clean Telecaster track for 'A Bout de Souffle', along with my instrumental 'Irene' (which became 'The Old Suzanne') while there. I think we somehow "became a band" from these two songs.
3) "That Huge Eraser"
BH: Originally titled "The Vapor" and destined for another project, my old 1980s bandmate / drummer Jim Gass and DIY multi-instrumentalist Greg Segal added lovely pulse and delicate timbres... like doppelganger Jamie Muirs! The song was written in several successive time-signatures, moves forward hesitantly like Korean folk-music, and is intentionally 'painfully slow'. Jim Gass had the very hard job of discerning rhythm in the swirling foundation track I sent him.
CD: I guess it is the atmosphere of the track that got me into singing out – here and there - a bit like Peter Hammill ...that's what I heard at the recording studio after the first take which made me laugh a lot (I was so surprised ...) and decided to feel at ease with it ...
DN: I picture a kabuki theater-kind of stage show happening to this. Wild white makeup and ornate set decorations and costumes. Somebody needs to film a kabuki puppet show to this song.
4) "Rich Holiday"
BH: This song started as a quirky 'fake jazz' number in search of a home that Dave and I were bouncing around. The working title was "Cheese and Me". I was thinking of people on cruise ships dancing drunkenly to badly played jazz...as the band was also drunk.
CD: To start with, it was not exactly easy for me to write and sing on this masterpiece ... but once I got into a (movie) picture of those mafiosi- cynic new rich and took the option to play the oblique, crooked game Bret initiated, then the whole flow emerged in the most natural way.
DN: This was a Bret sound source that we all added to. Right away it sounded very Beefheart / Pere Ubu to me. My son, George, laid down a funny 3/4 drum beat, and I added a bass clarinet to it in place of an electric bass. Carla's lyrics glued it all together and turned it into a great story.
DN: I wanted to do take a break from the piano and compose an all clarinet song. Interestingly enough (maybe because of the dark timbre of the clarinets), it came out in a minor key and very dark and atmospheric. Bret and I had been recording with Jerry King (Cloud Over Jupiter) in our band, Moon Men, and we knew we needed an acoustic bass on it. Jerry used his acoustic bass guitar and tuned it low. He also (to our pleasant surprise) added some dark and scary ambient sounds to go along with the song. It was just what the track needed.
CD: Got in there as into a slow motion picture being screened in the largest roofless cathedral Man has ever built. I was a way or another but most certainly inspired by two Tarkovsky films, "Stalker" and "Nostalgia".
BH: When I heard Dave's clarinets, it was like a graveyard squall and remembered the Halloween sound effects records of my childhood. I did what I could to create an eerie stereo guitar atmosphere that was cinematic and suggested imagery.
6) "Random Night"
CD: It is the piano/intro (sounded like a gentle march to me) that immediately inspired the lyrics; how fun it was to do the few words in Italian in that Napolitan mode of bel canto. Later on when I received the track completed with the most attractive drums, it made me stand up in the middle of the night (and of the sitting-room) and I found myself dancing, doing some steps to this rumba, mambo, cha-cha ... watched by Lili the cat wondering what the hell was going on at 3 AM...
BH: A classic Newhouse arrangement, this one. Dave's DIRATZ songs always make me step-back and imagine us playing live...no guitar overdubs that I can't do in real-time The initial & subsequent guitar parts I sent Dave for 'Random Night' were deemed too busy or unusable. Using the studio-as-instrument, Dave took pieces of those longer guitar ideas and built 'my part' into the existing arrangement. Now, it sounds like it should always have been this way.
DN: This is the song that Carla's daughter, artist Iris Terdjiman, turned into a video. Our first video!
7) "Under Our Skin"
DN: I had just come off a serious Burt Bacharach jag (my favorite pop song composer), and the song came to me in one non-stop wave. I knew I wanted Carla to sing on it, but we needed drums first. Unfortunately, when I recorded the piano chords, I did not record it with a click track. I tried re-recording it WITH a click track, but it just wasn't working. So I crossed my fingers, sent it off to drummer extraordinaire Sean Rickman, and asked him if he could, at all possibly, add drums to it without a click track, by just following my wifty piano chord rhythms. I also told him to imagine Carla singing this on The Dean Martin Show in 1968 with the Gold Diggers dancing on a pop art stage behind her. 60s retro-like. Two days later, he sent it back to me - perfect. To this day, I still don't know how he lined himself up so well with it.
CD: Dave having mentioned he wrote that track as a homage to Burt Bacharach, I let myself slid into the «history» of the love songs' mode and mood all gathered in the most simple way possible.
BH: What a beautiful and uplifting song! Dreamy. Carla nails it right on the head how music is medicine, memory, and often miraculous. My Ebows reach to embrace the song.
8) "The Old Suzanne"
BH: This was originally an instrumental titled "Irene" which I wrote in memory of my paternal grandmother. I performed it solo several times before settling on the arrangement I sent to Carla.
CD: Bret sent me a message asking «did you have a grand mother you loved, you were close to? Cause I just wrote some music thinking of my own grand mother, her name was Irene ...». That's how came the opportunity, the chance for me, to go back to Suzanne, her life, my relation to her, my teens... all this with a few tears dropping as I was writing what finally is no more but no less than a chapter of my autobiography ...
DN: Bret's guitar part was the original source track for this that Carla and I added to. It was delicate and beautiful and I just didn't want to muck it up. A single clarinet seemed to add to it without weighing it down. I love the whole album, but I think this is still my favorite track. Carla's lyrics make me cry.
9) "Song for Jaki"
BH: I became fond of the band CAN long after they'd passed their prime. The consistently amazing drumming of Jaki Leibezeit drew me right in. His death, particulary considering how many of my dear friends valued his work, hit us like a ton of bricks. There is no drumming on this piece because "the drummer has left the building."
CD: On the same day/night we received the awful news Jaki was gone ... we were all so stunned and sad ...I actually could not stop crying, I was devastated ... and then Bret sent me the music, very German Alps-Bayern to me ...I immediately did some automatic writing (écriture automatique) which really helped me a lot go through the pain. When time came to record the song I asked my engineer, Cyrille, to double triple the voice so that the echoes in those German Alps become real and go as far as possible in space so that Jaki could hear.
DN: One of the many things that the 3 of us have in common is an appreciation of CAN. If memory serves, the solo guitar on this particular track that Bret sent me, was part of another track. But the guitar just stood out to me as gorgeous and sad and subtle and effective all by itself. No sooner had Bret sent the track then we heard of Jaki's passing. The song had to be dedicated to him. We all added as little as we could to not get in its way. I think it worked.