Fast Eddie / Fast Eddie Music Conspiracy

Fast Eddie is Bryan Jones on lead bass guitar, Mike Kirby on drums and vocals, Jeremy Reichwein on guitar and vocals, and me on keyboards and vocals. There’s a lot to say about this group.

First, I’ve played with Bryan and Mike in various combinations since high school, and known Jeremy for about as long. So when we put this group together in 2000, it wasn’t terribly different from many other things we’d done.

Except that it was a strange combination of attitudes. Jeremy created a lot of soundscapes, I created a lot of distortion, and we only sometimes had lyrics. Because we often used unusual meters, we naturally got lumped in with “progressive rock” bands. But it was never a marriage that really fit: we made too much noise for prog purists (though they seemed to appreciate the musicianship) and we were far too notey for the punk crowds. Coming from Annapolis, we really didn’t fit in with anyone. Most songs were written collaboratively through exhaustive improvisation/rehearsal, but sometimes things came together through individual effort; there wasn’t a lot of room for this in the funk-/bar-/songwriter-focused scene we grew up in.

Personally, my goal was to treat piano and organ as rock guitars rather than textural backdrop. I wanted to play riffs, to create feedback, and to abuse the piano keyboard whenever appropriate. Bleeding on keys was an acceptable by-product. The result is an odd combination of precision and slop. Hopefully, the slop was more attitude than lack of skill...

We changed our name midstream because there was another band in a related genre that was using the same name. Since we were already a nobody outside of our home town, we just extended the name to reflect the fact that our band was a social club first, and a functioning band a distant second. We abruptly stopped playing in 2006 after our last show at Orion Sound Studios (opening for Mike Kenneally and Bryan Beller), but we have a handful of unfinished songs that I’m hoping to get out of my head in the near future.

Not Available In Stores (2002)

Not Available In Stores cover

We recorded this ourselves in the basement of Bryan’s parents’ house in... two nights? Maybe three. It’s basically live to an 8-track minidisc recorder (we overdubbed vocals and one keyboard entrance I flubbed), which we then got mixed and mastered by Frank Marchand. We had spent about two years working this material up for live shows, so recording it wasn’t hard at all, even without a click track.

You can finally stream and purchase this album on bandcamp.

Read more about each track.

The Kids Dig it (2006)

The Kids Dig It cover

This album took years. Recording it was a lot of fun, but finishing it was like trying to get to the end of a book by reading one chapter each night.

Like the first record, we went into this recording with (well, almost) all of the album written and rehearsed. We set up at Jeremy’s sister’s house, and settled in for basic tracking. I was set up going direct (in the control room, where everyone except Mike physically played), Jeremy’s rig was in a bedroom, Bryan’s was in a different bedroom, and Mike was in a shed with the drumset. We ran video cameras through the snake we used to run the drum mics back to the control room and let the VHS tapes (yes, VHS tapes) record so active video monitors on each end would allow us to see Mike—and vice-versa—while we played. The added benefit of this was that we were later able to use audio from the VHS tapes on the final track.

Finishing the album was a lot harder than the first record. For one thing, we didn’t engineer it ourselves and our engineer, Ryan Cullen, kept moving. And so did several of us in the band. So getting schedules aligned for overdubs, vocals, mixing... it took the better part of a year, with everything that was not a basic track in a different house. Eventually, we recorded ourselves watching the VHS tape playback and used that audio on the final track. (Just in case anyone thought we were too serious this time around.)

Ryan calls this the best-sounding album he’s done (that may or may not still be true), but I think it’s just because he spent a lot of time mixing it. I think he had nothing better to do at the time.

You can finally stream and purchase this album on bandcamp.

Read more about each track.

Track info for Not Available In Stores

  1. Spin The Grey Sky

    This is one of the first songs we wrote. It starts with the opening chord from “Hard Day’s Night” (we thought opening with a “fake out” was terribly funny). This was Bryan’s title and his riff was the basis for the song. It is the “single” for the record, as much as that concept can apply, and competes with “Muad’Dib” for being the signature aesthetic of the band at the time. You can listen to this track on bandcamp.

  2. Time Slump

    Jeremy brought this one to the table. It initially consisted of two riffs. Probably for laughs, I decided to match Mike’s opening clock-like pulse with octaves of just where E exists in the opening riff. This song is not atypical for us in its lack of traditional verse/chorus structure; it’s pretty much linear, but I don’t think any of it is improvised.

  3. Useless Member

    This song is atypical in its use of verse/chorus structure. Jeremy wrote the lyrics and guitar part, so I felt the only sensible thing to do was to add the noisy “guitar feedback” along with the overdriven Hammond. I feel like we all chipped in on the chorus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jeremy wrote that all himself too.

  4. The Godfather (James Brown’s Nightmare)

    This song is based around a James Brown-esque funk bass riff, but not in 4/4. And rarely in this song does everyone play together. The hallmark of this tune is for people to play a section together and then to dilate the timing (or delay the entrance) of their part so that sections only meet up again eventually (this is often called “Rock In Opposition” in prog rock circles, apparently). There’s plenty of improv in this song too, including the trading of solos at the end that get shorter and shorter until it’s just single-note trades. (Look, they’re stupid music jokes, but we were primarily entertaining ourselves anyway, so we had fun with it. To make it even more ridiculous, I added James Brown vocal samples to this song when we played it live.) This song was always a crowd-thinner.

  5. Hindsight

    This was all Jeremy except for the end section, which was our homage to King Crimson, a la “Coda: Marine 475”. Jeremy writes these kinds of interesting, simple songs that are not quite pop, not quite not. It’s a nice breath of fresh air after “The Godfather” and probably a song we didn’t play out enough.

  6. Through The Divide

    I think this is the first song we wrote together. Bryan’s bass line came first, then the drums, then the guitar and keyboards. When you write riff-based things, it can be hard to make it sound like you’re doing anything more artistic than just moving it around, but this song always felt like it was more composed than just transposed. You can hear on the recording that I am just barely able to play it fast enough to keep up.

  7. Muad’Dib

    The title is a nod to the opening four-note theme, which we lifted (unconsciously?) from the soundtrack to Dune. This is the first song that I wanted to sound like we were destroying a piano on, but that was a hard sound to capture back then (especially on our budget). It’s also probably the most representative of our aesthetic at the time, the way it begins with a Big Riff, the drum pattern changes, a part loops, a part goes to chaos, then nothing overlaps, and then Big Phil ushers everyone back to the Big Riff. That said, it does have an actual guitar solo, which was unusual for us. I don’t think the flutes are necessarily normal for us either, but as with “Time Slump”, we needed more color in the song than just two sections – and we needed a way to get back to the Muad’Dib theme. (The worms are the spice, after all.)

Go back to the album info.

Track info for The Kids Dig It

  1. Boot to the Head

    I thought this was originally intended to be a song for Feedbag, but apparently it was a demo for yet another one of Jer's bands, Cookiehead Jenkins. It’s a much heavier approach and we liked it for the album opener. I will say that I have no idea what possessed me to put horns behind the first verse, or why I was trying to channel a theremin-like effect in the middle section. These parts pretty much wrote themselves. For the end of the song, I wanted the sound of hammers on anvils, but had to settle for extra-boomy percussion sounds. You can listen to this track on bandcamp.

  2. Into the Void

    Because I was responsible for the lead melody in this song, I was determined to play it with two hands, in unison, on different keyboards (electric guitar patch and overdriven organ). Hats off to the guys for letting me get away with this approach.

  3. 6 East

    This was Mike’s blues song in 5. For this song, I would flip on the MIDI link between two keyboards to play the “guitar” solo that follows the bass solo. This was the first song that was actually impossible for me to play live as it was recorded. The parts were written as more decoration around the riff than essential parts. Mike sings lead!

  4. Automatic

    Originally titled “Automatic Déjà Vu”, this was the first complete song I brought to the band. Well, almost in its entirety – I didn’t write the vocal line, instead I told Jeremy that I wanted him to write an Adrian Belew-esque vocal line, which he did not do, thank god. It also contains the only part I forgot to put on the record: a harmony vocal atop the words “frame by frame.” (This song is also notorious because I may have accidentally edited out one of Bryan’s upright tracks during mixing.) The lyrics are reprinted below.

  5. Root Canal/Thematically Modified Jam

    This is another Mike song, where we pair the root canal with TMJ. And so logically I used a drill-like sound... ? This is more like something you’d find on the first record, but with the kind of bluesy grunge groove that Mike loves, of which we never really nail the blues or grunge-ness of. Mike sings lead again!

  6. Please

    Jeremy brought this to the group finished, with the only additions being the very beginning and the tarting up of the verses (turns out he stole the main riff from Kirby). The piano is mixed way down in the choruses, but... Jeremy’s songs are tricky to really breathe the appropriate kind of life into. We need more Floyd, less rage. We did neglect to include the loop noise that was always added live over top of the closing piano, but I think we added them to the end of “Monstrosity” instead.

  7. Rev E

    This was a pretty thorough collaboration: Bryan’s riffs, my lyrics, Jeremy’s vocal lines, and Mike holds it all together. The solo over the bridge section was particularly fun to write. Lyrically, I called the song “Anathema”, but since Bryan brought it to the table, his title took precedence. I think he named it after the reverence that jam bands have for E, and I wrote the lyrics about, well, I’m not sure what they’re about, but you can read them and decide for yourself.

  8. Monstrosity

    Named after Frankenstein’s monster, and so titled because we literally sewed this song together from pieces. It took a long time to finish this song because we were very much forcing it, but the end result was so weird that we decided it was some perverse sort of fun. Similar to “Into the Void”, it features a dual keyboard lead melody that winds atop Mike’s shifting drum pattern.

  9. In the Name of the Machine

    This was originally intended for Bryan and Mike’s side project band, Naked Jungle. The working title was “Naked Jungle Song”, and it was too repetitive to not attempt to put vocals over. I got fixated on the both the concept of a “concrete jungle” and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and ended up writing lyrics about destroying the planet.

  10. End Credits

    This song was never written as a group. Jeremy and Mike tracked the guitar and drums, and then handed off to me. I added keyboards to those tracks, and then Bryan added bass after that. (I remember coming up with the keyboard part while walking somewhere, and I stopped to record the bell solo into my Handspring Visor’s piano app, because you could record “demos” and play them back.) I used Cakewalk to orchestrate that demo before recording the real version at Ryan’s. This was unlike anything we ever did before, since we relied so much on live improv for writing as a group, and the result was so intriguingly different for us that we wanted to try more things like it in the future. The outro features clips of audio recordings of us watching the video of us recording the original tracks. So it was a fitting title, all the way around. This song was played live only once, at our last (?) show.

Go back to the album info.

Contributed lyrics

Automatic

I am the living, guaranteed
market and target disguised
for sinister phrenology
reversed: they go in through your eyes

Someone has to stop the cycle,
something has to break the chain
of endless automatic déjà vu,
preprogramming you frame by frame

I am the sinusoidal line
that reels you in, that brought you here
as architects of paradigms
install in you what seems sincere

And all that you have ever known
or felt or thought or overcome
has polished bones of corporate chrome
and you think you’re the only one

Rev E

How can you say you don’t believe?
Just because you don’t believe
in me, in you, in anything

Still you find a center around the familiar

Putting up walls with no windows or doors
a pressurized room with cracked paint on the floor

The deafening emptiness of ignorance

How can you go on so openly?
So openly alone in your sensitive community
Leaving the humanoid trapped in humanity
blinded and crawling, repeating the tragedy

Pulling the same strings again and again
separate songs that share the same end

In the Name of the Machine

Wearing the scars of the city
so fresh they still bleed
on stainless skin,
from seam to shining seam,
a mass of gears and greed
This luminous fortune
stills the dream american

So feed the fires of the empire
the souls of those to come
on stainless skin,
from seam to shining seam,
green is just a memory
This manifest industry
kills the dream american

so don’t look so surprised
at your machine’s design

in the name of knowledge
in the name of progress
in the name of the machine
is the shape of the machine
will be the end of the machine