Prodigal Son


Track Name: Prodigal Son
Release Date: 06.03.06
Instrumentation: Fender Jazz Bass Special (4-string, fretted), drum programming.


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Direct Link: Prodigal Son (mp3)

Composition/Recording Notes

The roots of this song go back to the spring of 1989, when I was just starting college and playing in a punk band called Ox. It’s evolved a lot since then, but the original idea is still there. The chords that form the backbone of it are played using a technique similar to what claw hammer-style banjo players call “frailing.” It consists of flicking the strings with an outward motion of the fingernails of the fretting hand. I picked this technique up from Les Claypool, of Primus fame, after seeing him play live (and one he probably learned from Stanley Clarke).

This is the first track I’ve ever done that uses two-hand tapping. Though I’ve toyed with that technique since I first started playing bass, I’ve never really found a home for it in my style. It always seems too showy. It’s only lately that I’ve found ways to use it musically. When I tried it on this track, I was really happy with the results and I had to learn a lot more about it to get the sound that I heard in my head under my fingers. You can hear it on the solo.

Finally, the outro part is based around a thumb and fingers style, similar to what fingerstyle guitarists use. Over the top, I recorded two takes of a simple solo. I ended up using them both, one panned hard left, the other hard right. Tony Iomi, of Black Sabbath, used to pull this trick a lot on their early (and my favorite) albums. So consider it an homage to my roots.

There’s quite a lot of panning going on in the track. The mix, I suppose is a little more adventurous in this respect than the mix for “Ocean.” But I’ve still kept to a minimalist approach. I did employ a little flanging in the choruses, which marks the first time I’ve used any effects on the James, Not Jim tracks, other than EQ, compression, and reverb.

The title comes from the biblical parable, of course. I’m not a huge fan of religion in general, but some of the parables that I learned in my youth stick with me. The original Ox song had lyrics (which were good, but not written by me) that were inspired by that story. And I saw no need to alter the title, as the track, for me, reminds me of that parable even though it’s now an instrumental.