Nello’s Liner Notes
Liner Notes to Accompany the Never-Released Comatoast Album Havi-g Said That
By Nello Van Hansen, Lead Singer
I don’t write these notes as an “ego thing,” as so many have tried to brand my actions throughout this project, but to set the record straight about what really happened during the making of the first and what is sure to be the last ever recording of Comatoast.
No matter what Danny and the rest are telling everyone, the concept for Havi-g Said That was entirely mine, which was to write a rock album that in no way utilized the letter N. Some have suggested this had something to do with Natalie, who was my girlfriend just before and at times during the making of Havi-g Said That, but nothing could be further from the truth. I respect Natalie’s decision to quit Fargo and further her dancing career in Moose Jaw. There’s no one who gets an artist’s need to express herself more than I, and all rumors of me lying in the mud outside Ms. Showmestate’s apartment and pleading for her to stay are grossly exaggerated. I was barely there that night, as Rudy the bar back at Frisky’s will attest.
So, the album is mine in concept, and in just about every other way, and that never sat well with the other three. As I brought in the individual songs that would make upHavi-g Said That—“-ever Again,” “From -othing Comes -othing ,” “-o, -o, -o More Lovi-g To-ight”—they seemed to do their best to give each only a cursory effort. Joe kept up with this skewed look as he pounded away, and Toliver giggled uncontrollably at times. They, of course, couldn’t help but be jealous—I understand, and am unfortunately used to it—but to phone it in when we had five thousand in the hopper from Grandma to get this project going and studio time booked was beyond unprofessional. I was paying them an hourly rate, for Christ’s sake. I don’t know how they expected me to hire them for Havi-g Toured That if they were going to act that way. People need to show they belong.
Still, the boys never voiced any dissent until Danny, at our second practice, said after what I thought was a perfectly acceptable pass through “-obody’s Fool,” “What the fuck’s the point of all this?”
You have to watch these studio musician types. Not only is most of their creative input bunk, they tend to think they can bully you. “What’s the point of what, Danny?”
“Of the cape, and of leaving out the letter N?”
To be clear, the cape was a gift from a very close friend of mine, a dungeon master who’d passed on right in the middle of a rather intense half-orc battle on Louvakia Island. The cape was redolent of his tobacco, which he puffed while doling out wisdom from the Unearthed Arcana. In short, it was from a better, less hostile time, and I wore it in tribute to him as we played. “The reason, Danny, is to create art.”
Danny blew out a hit from his cowboy cigarette. “When you sing, you sound like a retard.”
“Sonic pleasantness is not the only criteria,” I explained. “Anyone can write and play an album of songs.”
“No, anyone can’t.”
“Well, almost anyone, and rock and roll is suffering from a distinct lack of vision. I’m out to save our beleagured genre from extinction. Now, let’s try it again from the top. Ready? A one, and a two, and a—”
Just then Joe farted, which led to cackles all around and an abrupt clearing of our practice room. “-obody’s Fool” would have to wait until next time.
It was futile to try to get them to understand, so I rose above it, as I would have to again and again during the fourteen months it took to get this thing in the can. That’s right, fourteen months. Joe kept forgetting the accents, Toliver seemed allergic to regular bass drum patterns, and Danny used his parts to compete with my vocals. Time and time again I caught him playing something that glommed onto my melodies, which I had to put a stop to every time.
Things didn’t go much quicker once we got into the studio, which was in Wally the landscaper guy’s soundproof garage out on Prescott Lane. The myriad gardening tools weren’t what I had in mind for ambience, not to mention the aluminum foil that covered the inside of the room from ceiling to floor. “This is how Pat Travers did it,” Wally said, pointing to the foil. He’d given me a cut-rate deal, and even though the blades of the rototiller kept grabbing my cape whenever I walked by, I didn’t feel I had the right to bitch. All was exacerbated one night when Joe got drunk and started the plate compactor, scarring a good chunk of floor. Wally still hasn’t forgiven me for that, and I was nowhere near the place when it happened.
Wally, who acted as engineer, took it out on me when it came time to lay vocals. After I sang the first line of “Believe it or -ot,” he said, “You’re a little flat.”
I thought I’d nailed it, but I tried again. This time I made it about three lines in before he stopped me. “Flat,” he said.
“I was on that time.”
“Sorry.” I distinctly heard giggling in the background. Joe and Toliver.
During the many takes after that, it didn’t matter if I clenched my butt or sang through my nose or ignored all attempts to sound pleasant, I was never on pitch enough for Wally. Eventually I stormed out of the booth, sending a few sheets of aluminum foil cascading to the floor, and demanded he prove I was flat. I had a recorder in my hand, and I played it along with my singing to show I was on—spectacularly, in fact. Wally merely shrugged and said, “Hey, if you want flat vocals...” I directed all the takes after that, telling him when to go back and when to press on. It took three months to get the vocals down, working around his landscaping duties and his neighbor Mrs. Lambert’s babysitting schedule.
And all this was before Natalie.
When I saw her get out of the cab in a new silver sequined miniskirt and heels beyond high, I knew I’d ask her to stay at my place. Apparently, there’d been a fight at the Moose Jaw club. Hair and fingernails were involved, and when the owner called the police, Natalie figured it was best to lay low in Fargo for a while. “You were the first person I thought of,” she said, running her hand through my hair.
“And why’s that?” I said, knowing our time together must have been memorable. I can be quite amorous.
“Because you have a spare room.” It took some cajoling to get her to share a bed with me that first night, but I don’t think she regretted it.
I take full responsibility for asking her to the studio. I thought our past troubles were behind us, and I thought she felt the same way, so while Danny laid guitar tracks I saw no reason we couldn’t snuggle a little on the futon between takes. I suspected it wasn’t going to go my way when we walked in and Natalie—who’d been hitting the Chianti pretty hard that day—said, “What have we here?” running a finger over the label of Danny’s Wrangler jeans.
Okay, bad situation, and I’m not pretending I wasn’t knocked off my game. Danny seemed to shrug off the gesture while I found safe harbor for Natalie and me behind the mixing board. Wally cued up “Ma-y Years Later,” and Danny played along. I felt like the tone of his Les Paul was a too crunchy, but I didn’t say anything at first. It was clear Natalie was transfixed by his cloying charms. She leaned forward, smiled with her eyes, jutted out her chest on the off chance he might look our way. I realized I should’ve brought her on a day I was doing vocal overdubs.
Things got worse when the solo came. Danny, seeming to pick up on Natalie’s attention, tore into his part, blazing up the neck, bending high notes with relish, swinging his guitar like he played Budokan. The surge in testosterone was too much for the song, which was deeply influenced by some Irish brogues I’d been listening to. Danny seemed to have lost all sense of proportion.
None of this kept Natalie from jumping up on the futon and, using her pelvis like the deadly weapon it was, swaying with tender conviction. Wally huffed out a laugh. Thankfully Joe and Toliver weren’t there, they’d surely be cheering her on. When the song ended and Danny stopped playing, Natalie clapped.
“That was—” Wally started.
“Not appropriate,” I finished.
Three heads turned in my direction.
“What’s the problem?” Danny said.
“This song’s a shuffle, and you’re playing it like Black Sabbath.”
“I was going with a feeling.”
“We rehearsed this.”
Danny looked miffed. Wally seemed tongue-tied.
“Let’s do it again,” Natalie shouted.
“Yeah,” I said, “but something more like a Irish fiddle player in the late 1200s.”
“As opposed to the early 1200s?” Danny said.
I didn’t want to have to knock the guy down a peg, but he was seriously impinging on my plans. I sat back on the futon, encouraged Natalie with a grab of her wrist to do the same. Seeing me crack the whip must’ve made her appreciate my machismo, for she flopped down next to me.
Wally punched Danny in just before the solo, and Danny went at it more slowly this time, with a tasteful line that didn’t contradict the vocal.
It was then Natalie broke away from me. She sauntered towards Danny, the waver of drunkenness barely perceptible in her gait. Danny looked up, smiled—an unnecessarily sinister smile. Wally agreed with me later that Natalie was merely enjoying the music and it was Danny who pushed her past the boundaries of good taste.
When Natalie got down on her knees, I knew to worry. She bent all the way back—a traditionally difficult position, and one I’d always admired her for being able to pull off—until her skull rested on the floor behind her and her miniskirt edged up towards her hips. It was then I remembered Natalie never wore underwear.
Danny stared lasciviously, accenting his playing with what I thought were rather suggestive and inappropriate fills. Natalie raised her hips, Danny edged a little too close for decorum, and that was when everything went black.
Yes, I was violent, but only what was called upon for the situation. Unfortunately, Wally still blames me for the damage, even though I explained the rototiller merely got caught on my cape when it crashed into his sound board, destroying lines one through sixteen. Thanks to some skillfully executed parrying on my part, few of Danny’s blows landed cleanly. The paramedics who wheeled me out of there kept saying “man, oh, man” in a way I took as evidence of my bravery. I don’t begrudge Natalie for not visiting me in the hospital. To see me laid so low no doubt would’ve destroyed her. The rumors that she’s shacked up with Danny I find distasteful and, frankly, a little untenable.
And that was the last anyone's heard of Comatoast’s Havi-g Said That. I admit I pushed Grandma a little too hard to pay my hospital bills, which led to a bout of stinginess and a need for some other way to finance post-production. As daunting as that task might seem, rest assured it will get done. If I’m anything, I’m a man of my word.
Art Edwards’s novel Badge (2014) was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s literary contest. His writing has appeared in Salon, Electric Literature, Colorado Review, Barrelhouse, The Writer, The Good Men Project, PANK, and Los Angeles Review.