The Muckrakers: 10 Year Anniversary Song and Session

It is indeed the Month of May, and for those of you who've been aware of my creative adventures for the past few decades, you "may" (no pun intended) be reminded of my participation in a musical trio called The Muckrakers. It was 10 years ago this month when our band congregated in River Forest, IL, to spend a week recording our one and only album, appropriately titled May. We made the album in May of 1997, and in 1998 was proudly released on Salt Lady Records.

Above you will see the only official photograph of the band (l-r): David Casimir, Todd Berg, and me. Our recording sessions for the Muckrakers album were captured by a then-hi-tech digital camera sitting on the monitor there at Future Parking Ramp Studios in my house on the campus of Concordia University...the camera randomly snapped pix of us as we recorded, and we got some interesting visual stuff...but only one shot captured all three of us. After we manufactured our CD we never played a show, and the band vanished. David Casimir and I have occasionally appeared in concert together and we've been known to play a Muckrakers song or two, but the real band itself never played one gig, and we've never been heard from again.

Until NOW. This past weekend I was on tour in Wisconsin and had a free day to spend in Madison in the lovely home of fellow Muckraker David Casimir. We were reflecting on the fact that it had been exactly a decade since recording the Muckrakers album, and we thought it would be the perfect time to work on NEW Muckrakers song in honor of our anniversary. Of course, for it to be a real Muckrakers song, there needed to be creative and instrumental input from our smokin' lead guitarist Todd Berg, and Dave just happened to have an unused Todd guitar-idea cassette tape left over from 1995! So we put up a photo of Todd (pictured above) and dumped his 1995-era guitar/drums recording into Dave's computer. We pitch shifted Todd's guitar track up to a playable key (B, to be specific), digitally edited the riffs and progressions we liked best, and ta-daaa, we've got a rough sketch of the first new Muckrakers song of the 21st Century! Dave tracked his trademark snakey bass playing, I overdubbed a second electric guitar part, and Dave and I added some classic sinister Muckrakers vocal harmonies on the chorus. I'll be darned if the new song doesn't rock! It sounds exactly like the way a Muckrakers song should sound! The only things we're lacking are lyrics and vocals for the verses, maybe some percussion overdubs, and perhaps some subtle instrumental weirdness. We're gonna keep working on the song through the mail (in true Muckraker tradition), and when it's done we'll post it online so everybody on earth can rock along with us.

Here are some pictures of me and Dave from the Muckrakers session back in 1997, and from our recording last Saturday in 2007. It's kinda funny to see how the ravages of time have reduced our once-smoldering sex appeal. Ahh, but our band was never loved for our glamour alone. No, the handful of people on earth who actually own the Muckrakers album love us for the SONGS. And, in all honesty, it never fails to amaze me how many people actually talk to me about the Muckrakers album and how much they love it. Considering we never played a concert, the album was very primitive, and the subject matter was, shall we say, unusual, we still touched a nerve for a small crowd of listeners. In fact, I feel myself more like a FAN of the Muckrakers, even though I'm one third of the band. There's something special about those songs and those recordings that I can recognize and love from an external perspective.

What do the Muckrakers sound like, you ask? My best description could be: They Might Be Giants meets King's X. Or, Rush meets Violent Femmes. Lo-fi garage prog for AV nerds. Something like that. Visit the official Muckrakers MySpace page to listen to some of our songs, view a TON of photos from the original 1997 recording session, and become our online friend. Check up on the brilliantly strange solo material of David Casimir. Read our press reviews here. And for pete's sake, buy the Muckrakers May's only $5.

In a big way, I owe my music career to being a part of The Muckrakers ten years ago. It was that session that introduced me to the magic of the Sony Digital Minidisc 4-track recorder, which set the stage for my own Sound Theology album. And it was the creative collaboration with Dave and Todd that stretched me hugely as a songwriter and producer, allowing me to think about music in a whole new way. Some post-Muckrakers co-writes with Dave formed some of the funkiest moments of the Sound Theology album, including such gems as "My Broken Heart is Miss (sic) You," "Failing Rockstar Attempt," and "Dumb Summer" and Dave's performances and input have played a huge role in all my post Muckrakers albums.

Stay tuned for updates on the completion of our NEW Muckrakers song, entitled "Idea 1."


Kelly said…
What a great Muckrakers update! :) I can't wait to hear the new song.
Steve said…
"...and you in cloudless heaven" is one of the most brilliant songs I have ever heard. I'm *so* looking forward to a new tune!

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