Hi, my name is John Wozniak. Call me Woz. I sing and play guitar in the band Marcy Playground. My mother taught me that the universe guides, teaches, and offers up gifts... even when bad things happen. Actually,... I think her exact words were: "...especially when bad things happen."
It was January of 2003, and the new Marcy Playground CD was already three years overdue. A bunch of new demos had been recorded in the basement studio at my house in Pennsylvania. We had subversively leaked some of them to our fans through the Marcy website the year before. The response was immediate and overwhelming. It was, according to our friends and fans, the best stuff we'd ever done. Record companies began calling, radio stations were casually announcing the pending arrival of a new Marcy album, and our website bulletin board was abuzz with activity. Me... I was in a state of quiet hysteria.
I was digging around in what was left of my basement recording studio, trying to salvage audio equipment, instruments, tapes, CD’s, hard drives… anything containing my music… anything that wasn't destroyed. That particular weekend had brought 18 inches of dense snow to the Poconos. Nobody had been home when the heating oil ran out. So, when the furnace went off, the water pipes froze… and, of course, they burst. Water had been raining down from the ceiling for days, unchecked. The drop-ceiling had collapsed under the pressure. The result was virtually apocalyptic.
The floor was littered with my personal things, stored only in cardboard boxes. The boxes had been coming apart in the water, slowly dissolving. The contents were scattered everywhere. Most of the contents were made of paper and, as it so happens, paper and water don't mix. Among the fatalities were my photo albums, notebooks, journals containing my writings… songs, stories, thoughts and feelings, dating back... oh, maybe 20 years. Indeed, the entire written history of my life had been reduced to a vast coating of pulp... spread liberally across the concrete slab of my basement floor.
I think it's safe to say I was in shock. All of the master recordings for the new demos were down there. Indeed, every master for every recording I'd ever made was down there; hundreds of unreleased songs; hundreds of fragmented musical ideas on cassettes, DAT tapes, CD's, and hard-drives. I had no idea what survived, if anything.
It took about a week, in total, to sort through the enormity of the mess. I had to throw away thousands of unsalvagable items. Thankfully, most of the master 2-inch tape reels I own had been stored off the floor, or in sealed plastic storage bins. The moisture had posed little threat to them. The DATs and cassettes, on the other hand, weren't so lucky.
On the last day, when everything was mostly dried and organized, I sat down and began listening to some of the damaged tapes. Most still played; some better than others. Much of the material on them was already a year or two old, and had been used for the demos, so I knew it quite well. I also found tapes filled with bits and pieces of music that I'd completely forgotten about. Most of this unfamiliar material consisted of sound clips that were under a minute in length... a chorus here, a verse there, a melody of interest... parts I'd started to write but had, for one reason or another, given up on. I listened to it all, intently.
In the weeks that followed I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with some of these new songs stuck in my head. Songs like: "Jesse Went to War", "Barfly", "Hotter Than the Sun", "Brand New Day", "Rock and Roll Heroes", and "Flag and Finger." All of them were born from this forgotten archive. Like a flock of musical phoenix, these songs were offered a second chance at life by the hand of disaster. By mid-February I'd written about 8 of them into existence.
It wasn't long before I began playing these new songs for people. I was suprised by the response. There was no "eh,.. it's pretty good." or "Yeah, I can hear where you're going with that one." It was more of a wide-eyed "You have to record these for the new record." And so, in the end, that's what we did.
When all was said and done, there were a total of 24 songs written and recorded for MP3. As much as we tried to cut the number of songs down to 12, somebody would invariably pipe up and complain that their favorite one got cut. We couldn't even get it under 14. So, after a while, we simply stopped trying.
At any rate, I guess the point is this: When I stop to think about the fact that 6 of the 14 essential tracks on this album came out of the disaster in my basement, it gives me pause... profound pause. It seems statistically inplausable; therefore, cosmically significant. And so, I find myself coming back to my mother's words: "...the universe guides, teaches, and offers up gifts... especially when bad things happen." And then I find myself pondering: Maybe it was the universe that was responsible for this terrible event? Truthfully, I may never know. But one thing is for sure, if it was... it sure as shit better figure out a way to pay me back for all my damaged stuff.