Although he’s been recording albums with Earwig since 1992, and a few solo tracks here and there, Spooky Jets at a Distance is his debut solo album. It was recorded during the delay in releasing Pause for the Jets (2016).
“It was sort of an afterthought,” he said. “Although, afterthought doesn’t really pay it justice, as it wasn’t something that I intentionally wanted to release as an album. But, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.”
“One thing I consciously tried to do was try to take a different approach to the lyrics. I tried to do them more somber, so it would have some sort of contrast.”
We reviewed the album in April (you can read our review HERE) and have to agree with him that he did manage to strike a more somber tone with his solo interpretation of the Pause for the Jets material.
“It was… I’m sure you’re familiar with the term ‘happy accident.’ For instance, the opening for Pause for the Jets, there are two jets. One is doing a supersonic pass, breaking the sound barrier. So, the one that appears at the beginning of the (solo) album was intentional.
“The jet that passes in the third song, I Don’t Want to Go, that was an accident. I didn’t even know that was there until I listened back to the record on headphones. It’s in the song by accident, but I thought it was fitting for the album.”
The sonic simplicity of the material gives added gravitas to the original songs. As such, this solo effort both stands alone on its own merits, and as a companion piece to Pause for the Jets.
“All of the songs are recorded in just one take, basically, with one microphone. It’s just myself and a guitar on one mic. I recorded every song in one night and mixed-in the sounds from the yard. I woke up the next morning, listened back to them and a few of them weren’t as good… especially a couple on the second-half of the album.
“So, I recorded them again. Starting with Holy Ghost Letter, those are from the morning after. To me, it felt like the album has two sides.”
The delays in mixing and releasing Pause led to frustration on the songwriter’s part. Born of being bummed out, Spooky Jets at a Distance shows another facet of the talented Lizard McGee.
“On Pause for the Jets, we had finished all of the recording and mixing it with a really talented guy that I’d wanted to work with. But, the mixes were coming back and they weren’t exactly as I had envisioned them. So, I called my friend Tom Boyer (GBS Records) and asked him to mix Pause for the Jets. He kind of balked, as he was so busy at the time. So, I knew it was going to take some time, and it took approximately an additional 10-12 months to get the record fully mixed.
“The record (Pause for the Jets) probably should have come out in the Fall of 2015, but it got pushed back a year. So, I realized that the record wasn’t going to be ready in a month and it’s not going to come out in the same timeline. I was just sort of bummed at that, and depressed. That’s what prompted me to record those songs, just so I could share it with some friends of mine.”
He’s making a trip across the pond to England in June, where he will play two shows in London showcasing his solo work.
“When I first met my wife, she took two trips to England. Those trips have always lived on in the mythology of our relationship, where we always wanted to return and go together.
“So, I thought that since I was going and had this solo record, I should take advantage of being there. I’ll be there for ten days, and both the shows are on Saturday nights in London.”
Here in Columbus, McGee will be performing songs from Spooky Jets at a Distance on June 10 at the Big Room Bar with some select friends.
“Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy and Kyle Sowash from Kyle and the Sowashes are playing. It’s a night of solo artists.”
The burning question within our collective synapses is how or why he chose the name for the album. Yes, inquiring minds want to know minutiae such as this.
“I call it Spooky Jets at a Distance, which is based on a theory that (Albert) Einstein had called ‘Spooky Action at a Distance.’ It’s a theory that relates to quantum physics, a concept that an object can be moved, changed, or otherwise affected without being physically touched by another object.
“So, I named the album Spooky Jets at a Distance, because it seemed to me like an alternate dimension version of Pause for the Jets.”
But why put out a solo album now? Was it just the right time for such an endeavor?
“I’ve been putting out Earwig records for a while, and I had a solo song on one of Joel Treadway’s Cringe Compilations in the 90’s. And Bela (Koe-Krompecher) from Anyway Records had a compilation called ‘I Stayed Up All Night Listening to Records,’ and I had a solo song on there.
“But, there has never been (album) that was intentional. I basically recorded this album on a whim.”
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all thankful that he felt the whim to record this album. It’s a spectacularly haunting aural journey that perfectly strikes the proper tone.
Lizard McGee – All My Sins Are Blotted Out