Track by Track
Douglas Dare on Aforger
The album title plays with the idea of a forger – someone creating imitations or copies, and reimagines them as the creator of something that’s no longer real.
Prior to writing the record, I came out to my father and came out of a long relationship, both were hugely challenging for me and questioned my idea of identity and reality. These thoughts leaked out into the record and formed the core of Aforger. I was determined not to write a break-up album or repeat what I’d done before.
Having understood the direction the record was going with ideas of deceit and reality vs fiction, I felt re-reading 1984 by George Orwell was appropriate. I wanted to write about the idea that sometimes it’s better not to know the truth and that our obsession with wanting answers can often lead to our downfall.
I lifted the propaganda ‘freedom is slavery’ directly from the book as it perfectly described how I felt, not only after coming out of a deceitful relationship but also after coming out to my Father; opening up to him actually trapped me in this heartache.
This is the only song on the record that was partly written whist in the studio. All songs start with lyrical ideas and I’d written many verses for this song. I was fascinated with childhood memories and how sometimes you can’t tell what parts are real and what parts you’ve fabricated over the years.
This song recalls one of my most embarrassing childhood memories where all I could think about was escaping outside. The greenhouse represents sanctum, literally the greenhouse in the garden and figuratively the safe space outside your hellish situation.
I never thought songs could be written in this way but sure enough, walking to the rehearsal studio where I was writing for a time, I started singing the first lines and tune of the song. I immediately pulled out my phone to record the idea for fear I might forget it by the time I reached the piano. The first verse was written before I’d even got out a pen.
I had tried to write this song many times before, the feeling of wanting to be excepted by my Father after coming out as gay. Previous attempts failed as I wasn’t 100% happy and it was so important to respect this hugely important situation. Lyrically I decided to be completely honest, plain with the language with no ambiguity. Like all my songs this isn’t solely about myself but when I write I consider the stories of others and my perspective is broadened.
This was the first song I wrote for the album and it went on to inspire the theme and title of the record. It began with that first line being said out loud ‘was New York a lie?’. I was asking myself many questions like this after I found out the last months of my relationship had been surrounded by deceit. Sometimes we question things in our lives but what if you question everything, your very existence?
The song talks about my real experiences, climbing the empire state building, visiting the Guggenheim gallery but links them with the surreal and unrealistic - just like how real memories distort with time.
When researching our memories, dreams and warped experiences I found many stories on mirages. Jedediah Smith was an explorer who was one of the first white men to discover the western coast of what is now the United States of America. There are many stories of his expeditions and I was inspired by one where he had to bury himself under the sand to protect himself from the extreme heat.
This was the catalyst for the song but the ideas evolved in to our human desire to find answers, it in this case, find ‘the edge’. It seems to be an ongoing quest, perhaps one that we’ll never find the answer to.
I wrote this song in one day, I remember improvising on this song for hours. It began as a quiet a sombre ballad but in the studio it evolved in to something a lot more lively. Here I’m exploring not only our dependence with technology but moreover our realisation that all the information we feed in to the ‘tech-ether’ will eventually mean we can exist digitally beyond the grave.
I realised this firsthand after my breakup where I would see and read and watch memories of my partner everywhere. I end this song with what I like to call ‘Binary Coda’. Here the choir act like a Greek Chorus repeating a message or warning ‘Why do we even try to mourn the dead when we never die’.
This is the only song I’ve managed to write whilst touring. Using a tiny keyboard and a very crude brass sound I began carving the chords and melody line in the back of the tour bus. I’d been writing a lot about how our relationships with people change and in this case revert back to being a stranger. Similar to Oh Father I knew this had to be very candid, I also wanted the song to feel awkward in places just like the awkwardness of meeting a stranger. It was important for me to use a very bold instrumentation and whilst the song appears very simple, musically it’s one of the more complex pieces I’ve written.
It was a challenge to arrange and we had to record it twice as the brass players, whilst excellent, found it difficult to play due to the extended notes. I also found it very difficult to record the vocals, after a couple attempts I decided to record them completely naked. I wanted to reconnect with the awkwardness that I felt when I first wrote the song.
After writing about my own struggle with identity and acceptance I wanted to write about other people’s experiences with it. I learnt about Venus’s story through the documentary Paris Is Burning. Venus, a young transgender woman, performed in the New York Ballroom scene. Through the course of the documentary you learn that Venus dreams of being a “complete” woman; she dreams of being a model and becoming famous. Venus works as an escort to get by and at the end of the film it’s revealed that she’s tragically murdered by a client.
I wanted to write a song for Venus to not only celebrate her life but to continue on her legacy. My homage to her is in some small way allowing her to live on, be remembered and be famous.
When I began writing the record I became interested in historic events that were surrounded by doubt. I had confronted deceit in my life and wanted to write about other examples of lies, mystery and conspiracy. This song is written from the perspective of a woman who, like me, was blissfully unaware of the terrible things going on around them. Once confronted with the truth it can be impossible to remove these people from you mind and it was this obsession that I wanted to concentrate on.
The story is very dark and whilst I didn’t want to completely ignore this I felt the rhythm had to be upbeat and in some ways juxtapose the heavy subject matter.
No other story hits as hard when it comes to shocking revelations of the truth than that of the Greek Tragedy, Oedipus Rex. This story is obviously quite unrealistic and melodramatic but it’s longevity proves that we will always relate to such extreme circumstances. I tasked myself to write the story of Oedipus in as few words as possible and listened to traditional folk songs to inspire the story-telling style.
The line ‘take out your eyes for you’ve always been blind’ felt really appropriate for the whole album (hence placing this song last) as it summed up this conflict between reality and fiction - the best thing to do sometimes is not question or not look for the answers because you may not like the consequences that come with the truth.