Singled Out: John Van Deusen's Whatever Makes You Mine
John Van Deusen will be releasing his new album "A Catacomb Hymn" on July 19th and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the single "Whatever Makes You Mine". Here is the story:
'Whatever Makes You Mine' was the first song I wrote after I told The Lonely Forest I was leaving the band. For those who don't know, The Lonely Forest was the band I wrote and sang in for about ten years. It was an emotional transition for me and I had been craving some time alone in a creative space. I decided to book a five day stay at a lodge up in the Cascade mountains that I had frequented with my family over the years. I brought my recording gear and some good books.
Around this time I had also become slightly obsessed with Sasquatch legends and "sightings". Coincidentally, I was staying in the heart of Bigfoot country. At one point I stopped at a gas station and made a joke about Sasquatch to the clerk; she scolded me, "I wouldn't joke about that" and then proceeded to tell me her own Sasquatch encounter. It involved smelling something awful that she described as rotting flesh near the abandoned train tunnel. "Cool!", I said uneasily.
Anyway, I arrived at the lodge and for the first day and night I had two of my best friends up there with me. We talked, ate food and walked to the haunted train tunnel - it's about a quarter mile from the lodge. Then, they went home and I began my short stent of solitude. Normally, I love being alone and during the day I thoroughly enjoyed the silence. However, as night fell, I began to feel uneasy; my mind wandered to all of the darker Sasquatch stories I had been reading.
I went up to the loft that during the day overlooked a dense evergreen forest but at night was a view of deep darkness out a massive window. It was in this setting that I begin writing my first song. I remember wearing my headphones and getting my microphone dialed in on my interface while trying to ignore the creeping fear I felt on the back of my neck. My back was turned to the stairway behind me and I tried not to imagine something creeping up the stairs. You see, the lodge is a big place to stay alone and it wouldn't be difficult to miss someone or something hiding in a corner somewhere.
The song itself came together very, very quickly. I channeled my fear and wrote about being alone and wanting someone to comfort me with their presence; a relevant feeling if you consider the situation and the recent break up of my band. I vividly remember finishing a vocal take and sitting in silence as I paused the song. My microphone was still active and I had my headphones on... "thump thump thump thump!", I heard what sounded like something running quickly up the stairs. I turned to face it... and there was nothing. I got chills.
It was in this state of tension that I finished the demo for 'Whatever Makes You Mine'. It was complete in about an hour and a half. I listened to it a few days later as I drove home alone and I remember thinking that it sounded like a radio rock single from the 90's... which I was keen on. So, when I began planning (I Am) Origami Pt. 3, I was reminded of the demo and how fitting it would be as an opener on a loud rock record.
It was a few years later that I finally got the chance to record the song in a proper studio. We had 9 days at Ranchland Studios in Cisco, TX and our plan was to record 24 songs - which we accomplished! Interestingly enough, we (drummer Braydn Krueger, engineer Sam Rosson and producer Andy D Park) had multiple experiences at night that were similar to what I experienced at the lodge. One evening Braydn and I returned from buying whiskey to find Andy and Sam holding an axe and a fire extinguisher, searching the massive studio for intruders. They claimed they had heard what sounded like people walking around upstairs and slamming doors.
For whatever reason, this idea of being haunted has become a sort of unofficial theme to the album and it's follow up, Pt. 4. Maybe it has something to do with the scary movies we were watching and the survival horror video games we were playing? Maybe it was the reoccurring moments of fear and isolation that I experienced while writing the songs? Or maybe it has more to do with me and some kind of creeping revelation that I am often my own worse enemy, haunting myself. Honestly, I'm probably overthinking it.
John Van Deusen Releases 'Whatever Makes You Mine' Video