Singled Out: Asylums' Missing Persons
A few years ago I taught myself how to play piano after years of writing songs on guitar, I had no real interest in mastering the instrument or performing it on stage I just wanted to use it as a tool to get back to basics writing wise.
I found that by writing on an instrument I didn't have much experience with it forced me to work with simple chord structures in a way I hadn't for years, it felt childlike and as a knock on effect my melodies and words seemed to blossom and take centre stage as there was little to compete with musically in the early stages of an idea.
One writing trait that has remained constant in my work is the use of instrumental melodic hooks (mostly played on effected electric guitars), they are present in much of Asylums work and the work I have done outside of the band. By writing on piano I was able to develop these melodic hooks and chord structures in tandem for the first time while still being able to create vocal melody, I found it liberating and fresh.
In the first 3 months of writing this way I produced a huge amount of material including our previous single 'Joy In A Small Wage' and 'Missing Persons'
A lot of Asylums material is not particularly personal lyrically, I tend to hide my emotions for the most part and concentrate on other subjects in the media, advertising and technology. Missing Persons is not that way, it is a very personal song.
It's clear to me now but it wasn't clear while I was writing that 'Missing Persons' is a song about pursuing the artists life and all that comes with it in present day. It draws on my own experiences and those of my creative friends and communities. It touches on isolation, self-loathing, joy, depression, elation, hope, community; all of these themes seemed to ooze out of me while I was working on the music which for the most part sounds upbeat but with a tinge of melancholy.
I wrote about 20 versions of the lyrics and when it came to finishing the final draft I chose to cut out each individual line and re arrange the text keeping the stuff I liked, thusly some of the words are taken out of context. I personally like the effect the cut up technique gives when used in this way, it creates mystery's for the listener and for me.
As I was putting together the initial demos for Asylums I was listening to a lot of underground and cult guitar music, stuff like Pavement, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai, Fugazi, Sebadoh, Slint because it was this music that inspired me to be a songwriter, singer and guitarist in the first place. As I said at the start I was trying to get back to basics, to rediscover what exited me about music and art and I just love those loose and exciting guitar performances and experimental sounds.
I decided to take some of my favourite piano demos like 'Missing Persons' and re contextualise them in this style by adding wild guitars bass and drum ideas. I erased the piano and reverted back to the electric guitar as the main focus and expressive instrument. All the elements of Missing Persons worked seamlessly in this style and through the metamorphosis it look on a heavier but more anthemic feel.
When I emailed my demos to the guys in the band it was an instant favourite, each member came to my flat separately to work on developing and personalising the parts, adding their own unique feel. The first time we played it in a room together it sounded finished to all of us, an amazing feeling for sure.
I think the end result is one of our best live songs and a solid fan favourite.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself right here!