WrongSpeak album notes:
Special thanks to:
Michael James, co-producer of this album (with Jessie Jacobson), who made everything sound good and provided an objective but never intrusive ear and whose input was invaluable in making WrongSpeak the pleasure of an album it became.
Chris Fudurich, without whom likely none of these recordings would have ever been completed. He engineered all the drums, a fair amount of the overdubs, co-mixed nearly all the tracks, co-produced Sore (for a UCLA Extension class at the historic Ocean Way Studio) and played keyboards on Black Xmas (along with Katriina Huotari) and bass on Sore. Chris also played keyboards, guitar or bass for all Second Language gigs during 1996-1997 following Katriina’s departure from the band. What more could you ask for from one guy?
Ken Jordan (of Crystal Method) who engineered and co-produced Swing Time and Civilized with Jessie and helped modernize the band’s sound dramatically. His work on two other tracks from the same sessions, Tomorrow and a remake of 1986’s Land Of The Living can be found on Second Language's Silent Crossing CD/album.
Toni Zeto, for her fantastic (in every sense of the word) album cover and wonderful ethereal vocals on Swing Time. Each of the Second Language CDs/albums features at least one guest performance from Toni even though she was only a member of the band from 1983-1987 and a guest performer at live gigs in 1991.
Cam Wilder, for her invaluable assistance in helping fully realize Toni’s art design and designing the insert/lyric sheet and CD layout, not to mention providing moral support during good times and bad.
Mike Murray, who played spine-tingling guitar for Second Language live gigs from 1995-1997, whose bands Grain and Navy Jet Noise Jessie produced in the 1990s, and whose superb solo album Adorable (released under the name Lilibender) Jessie subsequently co-produced and for which she provided bass and keyboards. Mike is another truly fine fellow who kept 2L (our nickname for Second Language) firing on all cylinders during the last two years of its existence.
Album notes by Jessie Jacobson.
WrongSpeak, released in early 1996, was both Second Language’s debut album/CD as well as its swan song. Apart from the band’s one foray into vinyl, the 1984 six song Souvenirs EP, WrongSpeak was the band’s only official release during its time together between 1981 and 1997 (with a one-year break in 1990).
Yet dozens of Second Language songs were recorded in studios, as well as home recordings captured on 4-track, 8-track and 12-track reel-to-reel machines throughout the band’s existence. Fortunately, Sunset Pacific Records’ Brian Edmiston had become a Second Language fan upon hearing our song Words Into Action in the film Welcome To 18 in 1986, and tracked us down in 2018, persuading us to finally release the vast majority of those recordings starting in 2019. Besides WrongSpeak and Souvenirs [Revisited] (featuring bonus tracks from the band’s 1981-1984 lineup), we’ll be releasing the double-CD Shadow Across The Moon (1985-1996 recordings) and Silent Crossing (1988-1992). We will also be releasing a double-CD of live 1990s Second Language improvisations, Strum Und Drang in 2021 for the band’s 40-year anniversary.
WrongSpeak contains fourteen tracks recorded by the 1993-1996 lineup of 2L – Jarrett Lesko, Brian Bielski, Katriina Huotari, Sam Graf and myself; and two tracks recorded prior to Sam’s joining the band, Civilized and a total remodel/remake of our 1988 song Swing Time which I co-produced with the Crystal Method’s Ken Jordan (the original version can be found on Silent Crossing). Michael James joined me on guitar on the latter two tracks and then went on to co-produce most of this album between 1994 and 1995 alongside yours truly.
Chris Fudurich and I produced Sore and Black Xmas towards the end of the album sessions though Michael was onboard to help mix the former. Sam and I produced Andante’s Inferno and Give Me Everything while I handled sole production duties on Twisted Wreckage and We’ve Come Undone, the latter with engineering and mixing assistance from Chris and Michael.
WrongSpeak is a very different album and band than the 1980s edition of Second Language despite the presence of Brian, Jarrett and myself remaining the constants from 1984-1997. In the same way that much 1990s music became much more muscular, so did 2L, in particular owing to Sam Graf’s more virtuosic and harder-edged playing throughout, but also across the board. It was a different era and the band’s sound reflected it.
That said, if you’re expecting a more uniform style and sound than the eclecticism of our 1980s and early 1990s recordings – don’t – ‘cause it ain’t like that. There are electric full-band bashes, folksy acoustic tracks, orchestral-cum-show tunes and electronic dance-oriented tracks. That said, it’s still Second Language – the same but different.
Sam and keyboardist Katriina Huotari’s addition simply helped further diversify the band’s sound yet again and we worked hard to maintain our eclecticism while also forging a new band sound. We became a truly international band with their addition, Sam being from Switzerland and Katriina from Finland – second language indeed.
Do I have my nitpicks regarding the album? Sure. We were younger and more a part of the music scene in the 1980s than we could ever hope to be in the 1990s. We were less a full-time band than we’d been in the past. I also pushed myself in too hard a direction perhaps in compensation for my evolving gender dysphoria (I transitioned from male to female only five years after the album was released) – and was perhaps following trends more than anticipating them as I felt we’d done in our earlier incarnation. Sam’s style, as fantastic and diverse a player as he was on electric, acoustic and slide guitar, was not necessarily a natural fit for the band so we had to work a lot harder at incorporating him into the band than with David ‘Spiggy’ Miller or Richie Owens back in the 1980s.
All that said, I’m still proud not only of how the album turned out but the fact that we somehow managed to finance, record and release the damn thing on our own when industry interest in Second Language was at an all-time low. I credit Michael James and Chris Fudurich with not only helping the band make it all happen but also for helping to keep morale up by playing with the band during 1992 (Michael) and 1996 (Chris) and just being great guys. Mike Murray was also a significant addition to our live performance and improvisations on guitar and vocals in 1996.
And, of course, I credit the band itself. Jarrett and Brian’s bass and drum work was as powerful and intuitive as ever. Jarrett’s occasional guitar forays and Brian’s percussion bashing augmented the band’s sound as creatively as ever. And I think I turned in some strong vocal, guitar and lyrical work as well.
Sam’s slide guitar parts on Black Xmas, Twisted Wreckage and Sore are all inspirational. He worked his ass off to adjust his sound to our style. It can’t have been easy to come into a band that had a distinctive guitar sound forged by myself and, later, Jarrett (and expanded by Spiggy and Richie) over the course of a decade. To do so he had to jettison some of his own hard-earned approach and tone down the virtuosity to accommodate our more alternative and pop leanings – and still shine on so many tracks on this album. Sam’s two keyboard classical pieces, to which I added vocals, lyrics and/or guitar also added a whole new element to the band’s sound. And he was a pleasure to work with as well.
Katriina’s keyboard work slotted in perfectly from the beginning (1991) and it was such a pleasure to have a full-time keyboardist in the band again after half a decade without! She was also always creative and sympathetic to the music while remaining open to input (although it was rarely required). Swing Time and Butterfly are both amazing showcases of her skills, instinct and excellent taste.
In the end, I think WrongSpeak is a strong mid-1990s album that hopefully is not solely of its time and I’m hoping you'll agree and find some Second Language favorites on here.
Interestingly, these were not the final Second Language recordings. There remains an entire CD/album’s worth of never-released songs and unfinished recordings dating from 1995 through 1997 and even a few dating back as early as the 1987-1991 era. We’re hoping to finish them up and release them as yet another album/CD at some point in the near future.
Beyond that, Brian, Jarrett and I began playing together again as Second Language from 2014-2019, sometimes joined by Toni Zeto, Chris Fudurich and Mike Murray – that old gang of ours. Rather than play the oldies for the most part, however, we fell back into our improvisational songwriting mode as though it were 1985 or 1996 again. As always, I recorded everything – in this case on my digital two-track recorder and I am planning on editing some of the improvs and eventually featuring them via the Second Language website (something which I also intend on doing for some of the 1980s improvisations recorded on cassette).