IronBark – song by song – Steamlife


What’s it about?

I started writing a short story (Yes, one of my hobbies is creative writing. No, you can’t read any. It ain’t good enough. Maybe three decades in the future I might but some proper effort into it, but not yet. No. Don’t ask again) about a man who tried to introduce elements of selection (natural he hoped, artificial in practice, sexual eventually) into his designs for steam engines. These led to designs for machines that designed their descendants and the whole thing got out of hand and led to tiny feral steam powered creatures living under his floorboards.

Or so he thought.

And then the Pinnochio, Data-from-Star-Trek story ensued where the half-mad designer was forced to defend them as being life forms worthy of respect (Doesn’t anyone know what the heart is for? he pleads).

Yes, this is the sort of thing I write songs about. Sod that love stuff, balls to sex drugs and rock’n’roll. Self aware steam-powered insects is where it’s at.

The Writing Process:

I wrote the following for my old songwriting website that no longer exists:

A Brand New Old Song and Why You Should Never Throw Away Songwriting Ideas

One of the most important things you can do as a songwriter is keep track of your unfinished ideas.

Many years ago…

About two years ago I started writing a song. It was a heavy metal song sort of in the phrygian mode with crunchy stoccato riffs and a chorus that I couldn’t sing very well and probably wasn’t very good.

I recorded part of it, but I don’t have a heavy metal band and never finished it.

Ten years previously I half wrote another song. It had slightly embarrasing juvenile lyrics and the verses weren’t up to much but the chorus was good. I needed to use that chorus in a decent song.

For at least 10 years I did nothing with that chorus.


At about Christmas time 2010 I started work on my second solo album, IronBark. I went back to that heavy metal song, made it more rock than heavy metal, replaced electric guitars with acoustic.

But the song still didn’t work because it didn’t have the hooky chorus that I felt it needed.

After several months nudging at it that hooky chorus from ten years ago came back to me – I had to dig through some old cupboards to find the piece of paper I’d written it down on, but even through three house moves I’d kept hold of it.

I changed the key, did some cutting and pasting and made it fit.

Two songs I didn’t know how to finish and thought were dead ends turned into one song that I’m proud of. It’s madcap and silly and the lyrics are absurd, but tis become one of my favourite new songs.

The Recording Process:

This was recorded over a very long space of time. The original heavy metal version was recorded in 2009, left on a hard-drive then revived almost as an after-thought when I started on IronBark in late 2010.

It was recorded with the original chorus, which I cut out and replaced. The distorted metal guitars were replaced with acoustics, weird noises added at beginning and end.

The guitar solos in the middle took forever to get right. Listen carefully and you’ll actually still hear mistakes (I shouldn’t point this out should I?) but I’ve never liked perfect recordings.

Inspired by/Blatantly steals from:

Not sure. Perhaps slightly from the bands ‘Unexpect’ and ‘Frameshift’. But only a little. This one is almost original.


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2 thoughts on “IronBark – song by song – Steamlife

  1. My current song is about the trepidation being felt by an astronaut as he or she (could be either) gets launched into space for the first time. So you aren’t the only one who likes writing unconventional lyrics. 🙂

  2. These aren’t unusual subjects, they’re perfectly normal. It’s people who write about love sex and dancing that are weird.

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