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Conundrum

 
Released August 5, 2004

Band Personnel and performers:

   John Knutelsky: Vocals, guitar,  percussion

Tim Ross: Guitar, vocals, keyboard, strings, brass

Gary Fryer: Drums, djembe, percussion

Ratchet Renshaw: Bass guitar

Ted Bach: Piano, vocals (I Feel Good), Piano (Merry Go Round), Organ (Ol' Pete)

Larry Z: Saxophone

Backing vocals: Tr, Big John, Grace Ross, & Captain Rod

Voice on answering machine: Teri Micochero

Art and cd design by Tim Ross

Photography: John Blanc, Grace Ross and Rod Wallace

Picture of Gary courtesy of Gary's mom

 

Produced, engineered, and arranged by Tim Ross

Recorded at Thunderchild and Gyhooya Studios, Jax, Florida

All songs written by Trouble Clef and its members except:

       * Spanish Fly (Traditional with Troubled arrangement)

       * Under Limits (medley by TC, "Out of Limits" segment written by Michael Z. Gordon. "Three Little Fishies" written by Saxie Dowell. All other sections written by Trouble Clef).

       2004 TC Enterprises

       Love Attack 1994 T. Ross

Special Thanks to:

    Rod, Gracie, Joshua, Jessica, Kathryn, Dad, Grandma Doe, Uncle Clyde, Louis, God, The Fleet, Larry Z, Mom'n 'em, junior, and the rest

 After Emmi  and HCT were released, a chain of bad luck haunted the band for three years. In late January of 2004, a battle weary group embarked on a musical journey that would challenge their stamina and musical skill.

Only three would survive the process.

 

JK: Conundrum is a puzzle within its self.

GF: It's a mystery but the music is great!

JK: It came because we changed. Not so much on the outside. We kept our logo. It was a change on the inside.

 Tr: The past few years were a tough time for all of us but  we continued to amass some great songs. I thought deep down we wouldn't last long enough to record another studio album. I was hoping we could at the very most, have a live recording of these songs. Fortunately we stuck with it.

JK: There's always some good from every bad.

 

 

     
     
   
     
         
         
   
         
         
         

         
 
     
   
 
     
 
         
     
     
 
 
Tr: It was our fifth anniversary as a band and we wanted to make another cd. I approached the band and asked that they let me be the sole producer on this project and give me artistic freedom to do with these songs what I thought was necessary. They agreed.

In late January, we started by recording the rhythm tracks. I actually recorded John, Gary and Ratchet (and Ted on a few) live at Gyhooya.

JK:I don't particularly remember freezing to death but when we watched some of the video from the first sessions, we were all dressed like we were recording in a cabin in the Yukon.

Tr: The sub-zero weather kept everyone vibrant. Anyway, we recorded seventeen songs and I added everything else at Thunderchild. I knew it would take at least three months or so but I don't think any of us realized it would take over six.

GF: There was one point during the live sessions where Tim approached us and said that an entire session we did was flawed and that we had to record those songs all over again. I almost had a heart attack.

Tr: Yes, Gary grabbed his heart and fell back into his chair. I thought he was going to die. The rest of the band took it well. They just shrugged and said "Ok, let's do it". I actually thought the opposite reactions would occur.

GF: Then after we redid those songs, Tim approached us the next week and said the reason the original songs sounded so bad was because a wire in his headphones wasn't functioning properly.

Tr: Well you know what they say about a third heart attack. Gary should be very careful. Actually I'm glad we rerecorded those because they did turn out considerably better than the ones in the first session so maybe having a faulty headphone adaptor was a blessing.

JK: I came home from work one day and played my answering machine and this message came up from this irate woman claiming that Ratchet and I had her over and that one of us was having a baby with her. I nearly had a heart attack. I played that message six times trying to figure out who this was and then Ratchet listened to it (who was living here at the time) and he started freakin' . We just sat there and listened to this thing. Neither one of us had any recollection of doing anything like this woman described. We would've both had to have been drunk out of our minds and we don't remember that being the case, either, but would we have remembered being that drunk if we were?

  Then we played it to the band and they were spooked about the whole thing. Rod had this expression of awe and had me play it over and over.

Tr: A week or so afterward, Rod pulled me into the band room and told me that what he was about to say couldn't leave the room. Then he proceeded to giggle and told me the voice was from a woman named Terri who sat next to him at work and that he put her up to it. He'd already told Gary. It was several more days before the others were finally let in on it. Terri did such a great job that we knew we had to place it on the album somewhere. I figured it was one of the pitfalls of playing the 'dating game' so that's where it ended up. Terri attended the Conundrum release party, later.

JK: Yes, Rod really put one over on us.

Tr: Rod is sort of the glue that holds this band together sometimes. He's been with us since the beginning. He's doubled as sound man, photographer, boat captain, critic, cheering section, roadie, you name it. He actually did some of the backing vocals with me on "Burnt Bridges". It was the first time I ever heard him sing and we were impressed. He told us he's been singing to our songs the whole time. We just couldn't hear him.

He sort of went on a sabbatical recently.

JK: He went noodling

 

 

The  Songs

JK: We've got five years of songs in this cd and we've got so many songs, still, that we haven't included in any of our albums.

Tr: Well, we chose a lot of the tracks for this project on the fly.  Someone would say "How about Incubus" and someone else would say "Well, I don't know.... Alright, why not. Next."

JK: Incubus was out of a dream, wasn't it Gary?

Tr: Only Gary would know. He writes some of our most disturbing lyrics.

GF: A few years ago, Incubus was originally in a 3/4 time signature and was a love tune called "Just the Two of Us". It caused a lot of comment from the band because there were these syrupy lyrics over this decedent droning music. So I reworked it as an evil song.

Tr: I remember Gary and John changing the time signature to something faster and it evolved from there and sort of developed a mind of its own. Kind of like a monster...

GF: . We had "Evil After Dark" on the last album and I think it works much better now as an evil tune.

Tr: Who wrote the lyrics for "The Dating Game"?

JK: Gary Fryer. That's an interesting story because aren't those lyrics twenty years old? Twenty five? No. Twenty years old.

GF: Don't make me sound too old. No more than twenty.

JK: Those lyrics were actually written in the early 80's!

GF: Yes, but they had changed many times. In  fact, the version for Conundrum was hammered out in the last few days before it was recorded. It's a never ending process of writing.

JK: That's good. It keeps it evolving. That's what Trouble Clef is. It's this evolving, revolving puzzle. CONUNDRUM! (fist on chest)

Tr: I actually inserted that last verse (the repeat of "The kids are parked in their cars" right before the production ended on "The Dating Game". John had left an extra couple bars for an exiting guitar solo for me and my guitar had sort of run out of things to say so I found this verse from an alternative take and just kind of dropped it in there. So some of the spontaneity of  writing continues to the last phase of the recording process.

GF: Our favorite way to write is off the cuff; where somebody starts a beat or goes into a riff and we just all fall in and start jamming and before you know it...

JK: A lot of our songs are written that way.  Creativity by Spontaneity.

GF: Yes. We've got a song that everybody's contributed to and we just pulled it out of thin air. That's one of the most fun ways to write rather than trying to pour over the words and music trying to make them fit.

JK: Dude, if it doesn't come to you in an hour or a day, just leave it alone. Come back to it later. It will come to you.

Tr: It's literally taken me years to be at a stage where I can give an incomplete 'work-in-progress' what it needs to become a song. I've learned never to force an idea.

JK: A Lot of Conundrum is like that. It may have started this way and ended that way.

Tr: Love Attack was one I wrote and recorded in the early 90's in the band 'Thunderchild' which now goes by 'Apology None'. I remastered the original song last year for "Thunderchild Remains Volume 1" and realized how different it sounds than the Trouble Clef version. The original was kind of slow and cool. When I brought the song in shortly after the band was started, it immediately morphed into this heavy, hard driving jackhammer and it's hardly changed at all since.

JK: Another one that changed was Ol' Pete. It was originally released on EMMI as "Murder in the First". Since I wrote the melody, I kept it and changed the words in tribute to my brother; who was run down by a drunk driver. Ratchet always played a strong, wailing sax at the end in the live shows but he left the band before we could put the sax parts in the song.

Tr: A friend of mine from the Fleet Reserve named Larry Z stepped up to the plate. It sounds quite a bit different from the live version. We have these dueling alto and tenor saxophone sounds and there's a lonely, despairing eeriness to them. It works because Johns singing has the same quality in the recording, which was different from the live versions as well.

 

 

 

 

 

     
   
 
     
 

 
     
 
     
   
     
   
     
   
     
     
     
 
     
   
   

    

 

 

Tr: I didn't really toil much over these songs, despite how time consuming they were. I really just took my time on it. When there was a phrase in a lyric bar that was slightly fumbled, I would actually cut and form parts of the individual words until they fit. It was a challenge because the subject has to be cut just at the right spot to avoid pops and spikes. It was the same with music parts. We included a song from Ted called "I Feel Good". There is an instrumental bridge in the middle where I actually transplanted chords from other areas in the song and totally changed the chord structure, then just added some piano to blend in the seems. I did much of this album under a microscope so to speak. We didn't want to take forever on this, so we set an official  release date because we work best under pressure. The last song I worked on was "Incubus", which was finished the morning the cds were pressed.

The Cover

JK: Conundrum is basically a riddle within a puzzle. I'd known the word since I was a kid but there's not a lot of people who know it. Not only was it an intriguing idea to use as an unusual word but it really fit the album. The songs really are sort of a mystery.

Tr: I think life could be a Conundrum. The World as a Rubik's Cube symbolizes how people spend their entire lives trying to figure out the meaning of life; and the World sort of turning into this jack in the box popping at the end, shows them that life is just a joke and the joke's on them.

I don't know. I may be reading too much into it. I just wanted to use TC again in this album cover but as something different.

JK: Then there was the photo shoot.

Tr: There is a collage downtown with a park and one of those cancer survivor memorials. And right next to it there are some scale replicas of some of Jacksonville's major bridges. We almost went there in our May 2000 shoot but we didn't want to walk that far. We always knew it would tie in with Burnt Bridges,  which starts the album off. It was over 95 degrees. Captain Rod was there, of coarse, and Gracie graced us with her presence as well. We all had a good time of it.

________________________

Tr: People sometimes ask why there are three of us in the album sleeve but five members credited.

JK: Ratchet and Ted both left the band in April. Ratchet had about half his hand bit off by a squirrel.

Tr: Ted was bitten by the same squirrel and left.

 JK: We had a new bass player come in at the finishing stages of the album.

Tr: His name was John so we called him Junior. He chose to be behind the camera instead of with the band in the photo shoot because he wasn't on the album. That's a good thing because his time with the band was short lived.

JK: I don't know what it is about bass players. We've been through four, already. Whenever we record an album, we have a different bass player at the release party. It's like a changing of the guard.

Tr: It's part of the mystery. A Conundrum within itself.

 

     
   
     
   
     
   
     
   
     
 

 

 

 

 

                  Track List:

Burnt Bridges: Lead voc- JK.

Trippin: Lead voc: JK 

Too Soon Forgotton -A Fairie Tale  

I Feel Good: Lead voc-TB

The Dating Game: Lead voc-JK

Merry Go Round: Lead voc- Tr  Lead guitar- JK

Share Your Pair: Lead voc- JK

Spanish Fly: (Traditional with Troubled arrangement) 

Love Attack: (T. Ross) Lead voc- Tr

Ol' Pete: Lead voc - JK

Incubus: Lead voc-JK

Spank Me: Lead voc- JK

Under Limits: (Trouble Clef, Michael Z. Gordon, Saxie Dowell). Lead voc- Tr

EMMI

HCT